Picoreview: Cinderella: Surprisingly good. Surprisingly dark! And that dress, wow.
Cate Blanchett is, of course, splendid as the Wicked Stepmother, who was–in Ever After they managed to make the stepmother a more interesting than simply evil character, and Disney stepped up the game again with her. In everything save her treatment of Cinderella, I frankly admired her. She wasn’t good, but she was willing to use what she had to get what she needed, and…yeah. Pretty terrific characterisation for what could easily be a cut-out villain.
Lily James was lovely and sweet as Cinderella, and although there have apparently been complaints about her not doing much as a character, I thought she did pretty well for an adapted Disney fairy tale princess. She isn’t just lovely and kind and sweet; she has moments of struggling with that, and moreover, there’s a rather beautiful moment where she walks the wire between kind and nice, and does something that is kind but arguably not at all nice.
But for me, Richard Madden as the Prince made the film. I absolutely, utterly believed he had fallen madly in love on the spot with Cinderella, and that she was equally taken with him. Like with the Stepmother, there was a great deal more to his character than one would expect (especially coming from the Disney cartoon!). His relationship with his father (played *wonderfully* by Derek Jacobi) was incredibly poignant. It was far more than I expected from the movie!
There are more people of color in this than in any live-action Disney movie I’ve ever seen, the most prominent of whom is Nonso Anozie, who is the fencing master you’ll have seen in the previews. He’s also clearly not only the Prince’s Captain of the Guard, but best friend. He’s wonderful in the role and he is, all thanks be to heaven, in tights that show off his magnificent thighs at least once. He also makes the prince look like a Wee Fella, but I just looked it up and that’s because he’s SIX FOOT SIX. Oh. And also because Richard Madden is not quite 5’10”, so he’s not *short* but he’s certainly not Tall. Hah! :)
Anyway, the ballroom scene in particular (although not exclusively by any means) has a pretty diverse extras cast, and possibly all but one of the princesses invited to the ball were women of color and from visibly (via their mode of dress) different cultures. I was really happy with that, and even happier that the general crowd had enough people of different ethnicities that I couldn’t pick anybody out as “Oh, there’s the token person of color in this room.”
(One could argue that the princesses being primarily women of color makes the Prince wanting to marry Cinderella all the more racist and exclusionary because he picks the white blonde girl over the princesses, but I’m not going to argue that, because 1. he’s met and fallen in love with Cinderella before he even lays eyes on any of the others, 2. Disney was never going to break *that* far from the mold, and 3. when somebody, perhaps particularly when a giant corporation, is trying to do things *better*, I do not think condemning them for failing to be perfect is an especially good use of my time.)
It’s perhaps a little too long, not just for my active 4 year old child (who made it through the trailers, the Frozen special, and 90 minutes of a 113 minute movie; I had to go back later and see it again to see the ending), but in general. It probably could have dispensed with a little of the early staging and a little of the stepfamily schism stuff, but we’re talking maybe eight or ten minutes, not twenty or thirty, which is often how much I feel a film could be cut by without hurting it any. Overall, though, really a successful film!