Watched the larm of Cinderella (2015)
I have mixed feelings about this new larming trend Disney's gotten themselves into. Make no mistake; this version of Cinderella
is a good movie as Disney features go. If you managed to get Sir Derek Jacobi, Hayley Atwell and Cate Blanchett on board, then you've basically already crossed the threshold for what constitutes a good movie right there. And of course if Kenneth Branagh could turn the first Thor
film into something halfway decent, then he's definitely the right person to go to in directing a remake of a beloved '50's classic animated feature.
And though I was rather unnerved to see that Mrs. Weasley hadn't quite finished off Bellatrix Lestrange, she seems to have gotten over the death of Lord Voldemort fairly well and is doing some decent charity work in her retirement.
That said, though, still mixed feelings. Larming is tricky. And - though I'm a terrible masochist for bringing this example
up repeatedly just to rub my face in my own shame - it can backfire spectacularly. It didn't backfire spectacularly here, but that's basically because with this group of seasoned actors you can't really go wrong. Instead the movie just felt kind of... schizophrenic, almost Janus-faced. I don't think Branagh knew going in, and I don't think any of the writers knew throughout, what kind of movie they wanted this to be - did they want it to be a faerie-tale or a period drama? Did they want it to hew consistently to the original animated Cinderella
(1950), or did they want it to take on a new dimension and allow the live-action medium to speak for itself?
And the result is a film which tries to yark heavily back and forth between the two, often jarringly. On the one hand, you've got faerie godmothers and magical transformations done completely straight, in the over-the-top way you can expect from a Disney film by now. But on the other hand, you've got essentially half-finished caricatures of Jane Austen archetypes navigating a small Western European kingdom circa 1820 (but with fashions from considerably later) and dialogue that tries to suggest a deeper political narrative but which comes off, again, as half-finished. It's like they tried to do a fractured faerie-tale and gave up halfway through.
The royal ball scene was where these two different visions of the film clashed most jarringly. Did the directors want to focus our attentions on Kit's and Ella's blossoming mutual affections in the enchanted atmosphere? Did they want us to laugh at the third-rate Austen pastiche that was the awkward social manoeuvring of les demoiselles
Tremaine? Or did they want to draw attention to the machinations of Lady Tremaine and the Grand Duke? I felt like my attention was being pulled too many ways at once. Contrast this with the original animated feature's much simpler royal ball scene, where the political intrigues of the King and the Grand Duke are played for laughs, and segue effortlessly into the musical number between Ella and the Prince. There's a much more transcendant, otherworldly atmosphere there that they just don't manage to recreate here, and not for want of technical wizardry or acting talent - both of which they have aplenty.
That's not to say that the scene didn't show promise in each of those three directions. Cate Blanchett clearly acted her heart out in this role; I truly enjoyed the way she made Lady Tremaine come to life as a profligate, scheming and deeply envious social climber with a deceptively-alluring gaze. And Lily James is no slouch either; she played Ella completely straight, as patient, innocent, scintillatingly sweet and kind, practically saintly even, without being saccharine or maudlin. It's a shame they paired her up with Richard Madden's near-total cipher; but to be fair, it's hard to give a standard Disney prince real depth, and Kit was even more of a cipher in the original animated feature. The one time I felt Kit showed any real genuine emotion was in his interaction with his father (Sir Derek Jacobi) late in the film. The Grand Duke seemed to be doing fairly well.
All in all, the acting was stellar. But again, it felt like the writers were trying to have it both ways, as a faux
period-drama and as a faerie tale with magic, without doing the footwork to make either one really fully successful. An enjoyable movie; but it won't be a classic the way the original was.7.0 / 10