“Cinderella” sparks controversy



Cinderella and her Prince

As a lifelong Disney fan, I waited anxiously for several months to see the premiere of Disney’s new live action remake of “Cinderella.” With a little magic, bits of humor and respect for cheesy romances; director, actor, and producer Kenneth Branagh (“Thor”) enchants us with his modern adaption to Disney’s classic 1950’s animated version of “Cinderella.”

While most recent live action fairy tales have gone for a more dark and twisted atmosphere, “Cinderella” instead pulls at our heart strings. Every bit of the film is charmingly conveyed while still remaining true to the 1950’s animated classic. Branagh adds to the plot by giving some characters more in-depth background stories that help us to understand character motives that were never fully explained in early versions.

The role of Cinderella is played by relative new-comer Lily James, who is best known for her role as Cousin Rose on “Downton Abbey.” James didn’t intend to play Cinderella; she originally auditioned for one of the ugly stepsisters but was then asked to read for Cinderella. James’ soft-spoken voice, warm smile, and remarkable eloquence make her a great fit for the kind-hearted Disney princess.

James was joined by her costar Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”) who played the charming prince Kit. Madden does a great job bringing the role of the prince to life, where there never really was a rounded character in earlier versions. This opportunity gave Madden a chance to really make the character his own, which came naturally through previous experience playing a prince in “Game of Thrones.” The plot in this adaption expands the prince’s character more, as he is given a name and also motive for why he needs to marry so quickly. Madden’s confident but charismatic acting combines well with James’ and makes for a convincing on-screen relationship.

The film also stars two-time academy award winner Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) as Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s evil stepmother. Blanchett was made for the role of Lady Tremaine, having mastered a disconcerting glare and belittling tone of voice. Along with the prince, the evil stepmother is given more motives for her actions, which allows Blanchett to put her own spin on the character. We learn in this version the reason why Lady Tremaine is so cruel towards Cinderella.

And we can’t forget the wonderfully talented Helena Bonham-Carter (“The Kings Speech”) who plays Cinderella’s kooky fairy godmother. Bonham-Carter creates a hilarious spectacle as she waves her wand and turns Cinderella’s back yard upside down to create the infamous pumpkin chariot that carts Cinderella off to the kings’ ball. Although Carters performance provides a bit of comic relief, it felt too over the top and outlandish for this movie. A lot of “Cinderella” is straight from the storybook with subtle expansions of character, and though entertaining, Bonham-Carter turns her character toward the goofy and stupid attributes that Walt Disney had not intended in the original.

The film itself is a visual treat to see on the big screen. Together the visual effects, costumes, score and superb editing made watching this film truly a wonderful experience. Every detail was lavish and extremely well thought out. The costume designs, by Sandy Powell (who has won academy awards for her costume designs in “The Young Victoria”), were extremely detailed and breathtakingly bright and colorful resembling a late 19th century clothing fashion.

The general atmosphere of the film was convincing. Everything looked straight out of a fairytale, especially the ballroom scene where Cinderella and the prince share their first dance. The pans of the English country side—where the story was set and filmed (in Buckingham Shire)—were gorgeous, almost making me want to pack my bags and take a vacation to visit the countryside.

With such a remarkably talented cast, this film didn’t need a ton of computer generated effects to wow the audience. It contained, what I thought to be, just the right amount of visual effects. The biggest visual effects come when the pumpkin swells to carriage size and Cinderella’s cute and comical animated mice friends are transformed into horses. The CGI animation mixed with the warm lighting and lush cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos make Cinderella’s iconic blue ball gown look visually stunning.

All together, the film had an extremely successful opening weekend, bringing in over 70 million dollars at the box office. With all of the success surrounding the film, it’s hard to believe it created a bit of controversy.

Critics called Cinderella’s waistline into question, stating that it looked so small in her ball gown that they must have used CGI to obtain its size. Some believe that this portrays an unrealistic an unattainable image of beauty. Recently James spoke out about the controversy, “I naturally have a really small waist and then the corset pulls it in and the skirt makes it (look) bigger so I think the perspective makes it look even smaller,” the actress told ET. “But it’s totally just my waist.”

Other critics believe the film hinders modern feminist movements because it depicts that women still need a man to save them, and some feminists believe the movie is sending the wrong message to young girls. However, I have to disagree because I believe that this film sends out a very positive message.

Cinderella is a strong female character. She’s somebody who has got unbelievable kindness and emotional strength which allows her to deal with the hardships of life on her own terms, and find joy in bleak situations.

This version of “Cinderella” is rated PG, but I think that it reaches beyond the younger targeted audience that traditional storylines typically appeal to. The values that “Cinderella” presents, such as “have courage and be kind,” are important lessons for children and also serve as a good reminder for adults.