Friday, 3 April 2015

Cinderella reaffirms my belief in dreams, courage and kindness

The 2015 Cinderella movie is the talk in town now, at least in my Icha-town. I’ve seen it once, loved it so much that I plan to see it again tomorrow. But actually, before I went to see it for the first time, I was quite apprehensive.

And it was actually quite difficult not to, these days. What with wars here and there, difficulties to get a permanent job that makes you happy, murders at many places (the Germanwings crash is still in my mind), I have to admit, my psyche was not really cheerful when I entered the cinema last week. 

I was also sceptical about the whole old-fashion (read: 1950s) fairy tale idea. I mean, who got her Prince Charming without doing anything these days? Don’t get me wrong: I love Disney. But I have long decided that my favourite princess is actually Belle, with the Beast as my favourite prince. Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favourite Disney movie that I’ve watched, followed by Alladin (I said so because I have not seen Frozen – yes, sue me. The DVD is on my lounge desk, ready to be viewed after I went to the rental last night). But the old, classical Disney movies? “Meh” is my most passionate answer.

Of course I love the idea of Prince Charming. I love Cinderella’s white ball gown in the 1950s animation (it was white, not blue). I love her sparkling glass slippers; I even had one when I was but a little girl, and I did run around the living room wearing the slippers. But that was my childhood. After I became a woman, a few years after watching Beauty and the Beast, I started rewatching Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty... and I was like... okay... so what is it again that we loved about these movies?

My main objection is that the princesses were SO PASSIVE! Cinderella was in fact the most active of the three of them. Snow White arguably cleaned the seven dwarves’ house every day etc... but in the end she ate the damned apple and had to be kissed by a prince before she regained consciousness. I was actually thinking, perhaps the prince actually sucked – eeewww – the rotten apple from her throat... but didn’t that entail that the prince became poisoned afterwards? (see, I’ve become a cynic...). And Sleeping Beauty... or Aurora, don’t even get me started. She slept almost the last half of the movie. Good thing that Prince Phillip was around. Come to think of it, Phillip was the most active prince (fighting Maleficent’s dragon self, no less!), followed by Cinderella’s Prince Charming  (who at least did ask his men to scour the country to find her). Snow White’s prince was the least active of all. All he did was getting lost in the forest, find a gorgeous maiden sleeping, and kissed her without her consent. At least that woke her up.

Now, with these doubts in my head, I went into the cinema and sat to see Cinderella 2015. I was half-expecting some ironic twist a la Maleficent (like it, but they should have just admitted that it was a different story altogether from the classic Sleeping Beauty) or Snow White and the Huntsman (love it, and was actually hoping for the sequel, which will never happen because of You Know Why).

But then... I was blown away by the charms of Cinderella 2015. Lily James (Cinderella) and Richard Madden (Prince “Kit” Charming) were really charming together, I was half-hoping that they would be dating in real by now (that was before I knew that they had been dating Doctor Who stars). Stepmother Cate Blanchett was totally scary, step sisters were charmingly annoying... and... can I have Helena Bonham Carter as my fairy godmother? Helena had fun with her lines (‘I’m your hairy godfather’) and the pumpkin et al scenes were to die for.

Of course there are critics about the movie. First and foremost: Lily James’ very small waist, whether it was real or CGI. Lily and co faced so many questions about it that she became bored and questioned why she had to defend her body. It’s true that costume designer Sandy Powell (God bless her, she really knows her dresses and shoes!) used a corset to slim down Lily’s waist (not that she really needed it, IMO). The corset paired with the voluminous dress created the effect of a very small waist. We can question about this decision, but one thing for sure: the dress was the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen in a movie. Besides, it’s not that Lily was the only one (woman) suffering. Richard Madden had to wear some jockey straps to hide his manhood because he was constantly wearing tight white pants, and Disney is a family stuff, hence no manhood should be seen. Richard also became a Ken doll in this movie.

Despite these critics (that I don’t really pay attention to), there are more reasons why I love Cinderella 2015. Director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, everyone??) knew his fairy tales, and I am forever grateful that he decided to stick with the traditional take of Cinderella, with as minimum-yet-effective twists as possible. Of course the artistic team made Cinderella more empowered than her 1950 version. We learned where she got her kindness and love from: her parents (Hayley Atwell was a beautiful and inspiring mother for Cinderella). As Richard Madden said in the interviews, Cinderella would be totally fine without the Prince. She can hold her own. She can argue with him about animal welfare, and he was wise enough not to let her know he was the Crown Prince. They also gave the Prince some good background stories and humours (despite his personal tragedies) that made him more human. Kenneth and Cate also made the stepmother a woman with reasons to be mean (tho we do not necessarily agree with those reasons). 

My foremost reason to love this movie, though, came at the second last scene, when Cinderella finally met his Prince again (there was a big, lovely twist that I love here, and I will not tell you until a few months later – you need to see it for yourself). There, the fairy godmother narrated my favourite line, which I should take from Boston’s Wellness Coach because I don’t really remember the line:

As Cinderella was going to face the prince and try on that legendary glass slipper, the narrator—her fairy godmother—said to the audience, “Would who she was really be enough? She had no magic to help her this time. It was perhaps the greatest risk of all. To be seen as you truly are.”

Is it not lovely? Is it not uplifting?

It is true indeed: the greatest risk we will ever face is to be seen as who we truly are. And with that in her mind, as she saw her reflection on a mirror (covered in dust and ash, wearing a simple servant dress), Cinderella came out to try the shoes and meet her prince.
And perhaps, the real magic is indeed within ourselves. The persistence and courage that Cinderella has inside her heart, that helped her through her predicaments, are her real magic. The courage to show her real self to the Prince was the real magic. The fairy godmother just helped her a bit (don’t think she would be admitted to the ball with a ragged gown; something must indeed be done about it), but the rest was in her hands. All she truly needed for her dreams to come true (in this case, to meet the ‘apprentice’, not the prince) was to let her courage lead her through. And because she is kind and true to herself, her dreams come true.

By the by, the Elephant Journal has listed 25 life lessons from Cinderella 2015, I think it’s a beautiful read. 

Regarding the soundtrack, Patrick Doyle (who composed the scores for Sense and Sensibility 1995) composed amazing scores for this movie. I love Lavender’s Blue and the classic A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, both sung by Lily James. I also love Sonna Rele’s Strong from the Cinderella OST, which pretty much sums up what I think about the movie.

Now dear friends, are you ready to cast your doubt, put your best shoes or sandals, and go to the cinema to enjoy the movie? For I sure am, for the first time, for my second viewing.

Update 8 April 2015:

I've seen the movie for the second time. Still loves it, still pleasantly surprised with the twist. Also, I noted that the fairy godmother narrated the scene where Cinderella came down from the attic to fit the shoe as such:

"Would who she was, who she really was, be enough? There's no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are."

Just love it...(might go for the third time).

Also, have seen Frozen. Love it. But I still love the Beauty and the Beast the most for the animated version. For the live-action, Cinderella 2015 is definitely on top of my list.

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