Cinderella: Film Review

Cinderella

Courtesy of Amazon

I’m not even slightly exaggerating when I say that the new movie musical Cinderella has been savaged by critics. I don’t intend to go in on the film quite that hard because I didn’t hate it. Sure, it’s not great, but I enjoyed some aspects.

We all know the classic Cinderella fairy tale, about a orphan who lives with her evil stepmother and stepsisters and transforms into a beauty thanks to the fairy godmother so she can go to the ball, where she meets Prince Charming, leaves a glass slipper, you know the drill. This Cinderella, starring Camila Cabello in her acting debut, follows the broad strokes of the fairy tale but she is driven by her ambition to launch a fashion design career rather than because she wants to find a noble man to marry.

I found it strange how the film is a modern take on the traditional tale, one where women desire agency and want to have their own money and businesses and the ability to speak their mind, yet they live in an antiquated society which doesn’t allow them to do those things, they are simply wives and mothers and still attending balls so Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) can pick his match. It just seemed very incongruous to have the modern feminist mindset with the traditional society setting.

I could appreciate what writer/director Kay Cannon was trying to do with her revisionist feminist take and I believe she had the best intentions but it leaves a lot to be desired. It came across as a token gesture and suggested that you can’t be a female entrepreneur and marry the man of your dreams, it has to be an either/or situation. I like that Cinderella didn’t want to become a subservient, voiceless princess and sacrifice her career dreams but I don’t think her decision-making was handled very well.

Given that Kenneth Branagh‘s live-action Disney remake of Cinderella only came out in 2015, it feels too soon to have this classic story told once again, even with the added musical numbers and modernisations. The film often felt like a pantomime production or one of those one-off live TV stagings rather than a legit movie, and although there are plenty of fun and enjoyable moments, it is mostly one big cringefest.

With the exception of two original songs, Cinderella is mostly compromised of an eclectic mix of cover tracks ranging from Jennifer Lopez’s Let’s Get Loud, The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, Queen’s Somebody to Love and Madonna’s Material Girl. The musical numbers are a mixed bag – some were brought to life well and worked within the context of the story, others didn’t make sense and there were a couple that made me cringe when they began.

The actors are impacted by the weak script, but Cabello still does well in her acting debut; she has charm, fun comic timing and a gorgeous singing voice. Idina Menzel was perfectly cast as her stepmother Vivian – she gets great musical numbers but her characterisation is all over the place – and there should have been more of Billy Porter as the Fab G (fairy godmother) as he was glorious! I found Galitzine simply fine and his sister Gwen (Tallulah Greive) rather annoying, despite her proposing worthy ideas about sustainability.

My favourite cast member was Minnie Driver as Robert’s mother Queen Beatrice – she puts King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) in his place, refuses to keep her opinions to herself and has a fantastically sassy attitude and solid singing voice. Brosnan was also rather funny in a silly way and I liked that they poked fun in his singing abilities. Elsewhere, I enjoyed Rob Beckett as Cinderella’s pervy suitor Thomas and James Acaster, Romesh Ranganathan and James Corden as the mice/footmen. Not including Corden, the comedians’ casting will mean nothing to non-British audiences but I loved seeing them in a big movie, particularly Acaster, who seems so above this type of thing. They were the funniest characters and I thought Corden was fine too (I know many people dislike him).

I predict a wide critic and audience divide on this one – I think it’ll appeal to the masses more as it’s a feel-good, well-intentioned and harmless bit of fun.

On Amazon Prime Video from Friday 3rd September

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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