Courage and kindness
brings a girl in a blue gown
to eternal bliss.
On our drive over to the cinema yesterday afternoon, my wife and I tried to recall which movie we last saw on the big screen. We did catch the Oscar Shorts with friends a few months back, but for regular movies, the film that came to mind was Gravity. Which was two years ago! We actually saw at least two movies that year, as we also caught The Great Gatsby, in 3D no less.
So the movies that get us out of the house are spectacles, and boy, did we ever choose the right one yesterday. We saw Cinderella, and I have to tell you, I saw many little girls with their popcorns and sodas around me, but I guarantee that not one of them loved this movie as much as I did. I laughed, I cried (really), and I was just stunned by the beauty of it all. I figure plenty of CGI was utilized to make the backgrounds more than they actually are, but I didn’t care a whit. To me, this is what CGI is supposed to be used for, not for having giant robots duke it out as if the fate of the planet depended on them (it doesn’t).
This is one of these movies that could’ve gone wrong in so many ways, but by some miracle none did. Mostly I attribute this to Ken Branagh, whom I’ve always admired since seeing Dead Again. His Hamlet was a sumptuous affair, so I knew he had the aesthetic chops — and after making Thor, I guess I should’ve realized Branagh can do anything.
Some very light spoilers below, so if you want a virgin experience, stop reading and go to the movies on this very fine Sunday.
The first twenty minutes or so of the movie is the weakest, but something clicks around the half-hour mark. It might be because this is about when Cate Blanchett enters the narrative. She is, as always, wonderful, and this part of the stepmother requires for her to be in every kind of mode — evil, fragile, hilarious, oftentimes within the same scene. Initially I wasn’t sold on Lily James as Cinderella, but as the movie progressed, she won me over. Of course I knew she would imbue innocence and goodness, but it’s her lack of perfection that really got me. Let me explain: in the ballroom dancing scene, there’s a slight sense of the amateur in her movements, and that in itself lends a sense of vulnerability.
This movie is a total throwback in every sense of the word, and it’s the reason why it’s so good. Look at the way Branagh uses closeups the few moments the two leads touch (the prince’s hand on her back during the dance, the glass slipper coming off on the swing). The central theme of courage and kindness might rub some critics the wrong way, but if you let the movie take you, man, will it ever take you.