Did I like it? Yes, I did. Enough to see it twice so far in the theaters by myself.
SPOILER ALERT: There be details about the production ahead. If you want to be completely wowed without preview, stop reading now.
First of all, this is a very beautiful movie. If I saw it for nothing else, I would see it for the landscape and sets.The setting is perfect: a lovely medieval European town nestled in the cradle of a stunning range of snow capped mountains. The palace and ball room are magnificent and reminiscent of Versailles in their splendor. The crystal chandeliers with their thousand of candles set a perfect mood reflecting off the opulent gold and glass. The gardens are wonderful and abundant, perfect for a romantic walk in the moonlight.
Costumes, how do I love thee? I love these costumes a lot. Our Cinderella? Lily James is beautifully pure and innocent in every thing from her wretched rags to her magnificent ball gown. Even her wedding gown (spoiler alert–they live happily ever after) has the flowers in gentle pastels that repeat the theme of love of nature that so defines the character. Her ball gown is absolutely perfect. It’s blue fabric shimmers and swirls in just the right way for the dance in the candlelit ballroom and the stroll in the moonlit garden.The prince is perfect and handsome in his uniforms taken directly from the animated version, yet oh so brilliantly worn by this prince, Richard Madden (Robb Stark on Game of Thrones, God bless him). Cate Blanchet’s step mother is beautiful but severe in her colorful, stylish gowns, and the step sisters, while prettier than the animated version, look and act appropriately ridiculous. Helena Bonham Carter is deliciously over-the-top in her crystal studded white gown.
Fine, you say, it’s beautiful, but what about content? Does the story hold up? The answer is a big yes. This version has all of the things that us Cinderella connoisseurs love about the story: the beautiful, innocent heroine; the outrageously cruel stepmother and sisters; the prince who is as good as he is handsome; the fairy godmother who arrives just in the knick of time.
What is different? This Cinderella may not be Drew Barrymore’s political activist, but she does stand up for herself and does confront the stepmother about her cruelty. In addition, her first interaction with the prince is playful and engaging, and comes complete with a nod to her affinity for the natural world.
The prince’s relationship with his father the king is touching and gives a revelation of the prince’s character that is missing in many of the other movie versions that I will never forget (kudos to the actors).
Finally, I love the relationship between Cinderella and the prince and buy into it completely. Love at first sight? Absolutely. Belle of the ball thanks to a little magic whipped up by a fairy godmother? Certainly. Searching the world for the wearer of one glass slipper? Of course. Happily ever after? To be sure.
I was surprised at how true it was to the original, animated, Disney version, complete with intelligent mice who converse with caring bluebirds. They do not actually talk–that would be a little too precious–but they understand and interact with Cinderella. The do not help her sew the gown, but they are happy to step up and be four white horses. Lily James actually looks more like I always wanted her to look, hair down and all, and Richard Madden takes away that cardboard cut out look and really fleshes him out.
All told, I loved it, and it may rate a third viewing just for fun.