Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cinderella (2015)

Year 9, Day 112 - 4/22/17 - Movie #2,606

BEFORE: It's Saturday but I went to work, since jury duty caused me to miss two days work at one job and none at the other - those Kickstarter rewards aren't going to send themselves out, after all.  This jury duty thing is so annoying, I've already had to reschedule a dental appointment and I might have to reschedule a vacation too, just because they can't tell me when exactly this trial's going to start or how long it's going to run.  So I'm just living day to day, and neither boss knows if I'm going to show up on any given day.

But at least my nights are still my own (plus I'm getting some comics read while I'm stuck in the courthouse) and I'm still current on movies, here's the third Cinderella-based film in a row, and I can strike out in a new direction tomorrow.  Between Pontius Pilate, Cruella De Vil and a whole lot of evil stepmothers and stepsisters, it's been quite a week.

THE PLOT: When her father passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her scheming step-sisters.  Never one to give up hope, Ella's fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.

AFTER: This is the story of three movies about Cinderella, and in a way they were like those three bowls of porridge in another fairy-tale, where one was too hot and one was too cold and one was JUST right.  "Ella Enchanted" had way too much magic in it, and "Ever After" had zero magic, finally this one has just about the right amount of magical things happening.  Because the whole world can't have magic in it, it can't be a perfect place or else Cinderella never gets into such a bad situation, but then on the other hand, without any magic at all it's just the story of a woman finally getting some empowerment and speaking up for herself, and that's not really a fairy tale.

To be fair, this one has Disney's backing, so much of the magical elements seemed cribbed from that animated version made way back in the 1950's - the fairy godmother waves her wand, and Cindy gets a new dress, a carriage made from a pumpkin with 6 white horses that used to be mice, lizards turned into footmen and so on.  It's "Disney ex machina", or "Godmother from the machine", if you will.  Sure, she'd be a stronger character if she found a way to solve her own problems - I don't know, maybe move away from home and start fresh in a new kingdom? - but hey, we all need a little help sometimes, and at least this way one strong woman (not Da Vinci) helps out another.

They tried quite hard to make the message of this film "Be kind, and have courage."  But is that really the best motto for the Cinderella story, given the times we live in?  Why can't it be, "put up with your family, because they mean well, but move out as soon as you can"?  Or something like, "Girl, you don't have to take that kind of crap from your stepmother.  Call family services on her."   Any of those would similarly distract from the fact that the real message of the film is "Just hold out until your prince comes along, then don't look back."

Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh, because this film DOES manage to explain why Cinderella stays in that house with her awful step-family - because she made a promise to her mother and father, and also the house reminds her of them.  OK, makes sense.  And I get that if you let a bully draw you into a fight, then you're playing her game, not your own.  But still, some things don't completely add up here, namely:

NITPICK POINT: The Prince here seems quite open to the idea that the woman he saw in the forest could be a commoner - why else would he tell her that he was an "apprentice" at the castle?  (which was true, in a sense, he was an apprentice to the king...)  But the only reason he would have to not identify himself as king would be to communicate with a commoner on her own level, and this is further supported by the fact that he invites all women, noble and peasant, to the ball.  He's searching for the woman he saw, and casts the widest possible net.  So how come when he sees how beautiful she is at the ball, he immediately assumes that she must be a noblewoman?  Isn't that stereotyping, to assume that only a noble could look that good, or have such a nice gown?  It seemed like maybe he was getting it, but nope, he's just as clueless as all the other rich people.

NITPICK POINT #2: Though it's great to have the Fairy Godmother back in the story to set things right, her presence really comes out of left field here.  There's no set-up, no explanation for who she is or what she can do, as if the filmmakers fell into a trap, assuming that the audience all knows the story and therefore she doesn't need an introduction.  Jeez, at a minimum you've got to at least have one of the step-sisters say something sarcastic like, "What do you think, Cinderella, is your FAIRY GODMOTHER going to bring you a dress for the ball?"

NITPICK POINT #3: The Fairy Godmother at first doesn't want to turn the pumpkin into a carriage, because she doesn't like working with vegetables.  Ah hah, but a pumpkin is NOT a vegetable, it's technically a fruit.  True vegetables don't have seeds inside of them, instead they're made of stems, leaves or roots.  But this is a common mistake, many people don't realize that pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers and tomatoes are botanically fruits, plus the F.G. here is a bit dotty anyway.

And then we've got the standard "search the kingdom for the girl who fits the slipper" bit - but at least here there's an explanation why no one else, among thousands of women, has the same shoe size as Cinderella.  It's because the glass slipper is magic, duh - see, I told you the story needed SOME magic in it, otherwise it's no fun.

Starring Cate Blanchett (last heard in "How to Train Your Dragon 2"), Lily James (last seen in "Wrath of the Titans"), Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter (last seen in "Novocaine"), Stellan Skarsgard (last seen in "Amistad"), Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Derek Jacobi (last seen in "Othello" (1965)), Ben Chaplin (last seen in "Me and Orson Welles"), Hayley Atwell (last seen in "Ant-Man"), Nonso Anozie, Jana Perez, with a cameo from Rob Brydon (last seen in "24 Hour Party People").

RATING: 5 out of 10 royal portraits

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