The anti-princess backlash has officially come to a halt in Disney’s live-action “Cinderella,” directed by Kenneth Branagh. This is old-fashioned, Charles Perrault Cinderella, with a gigantic ball-gown, a fairy godmother, and a wedding at the end. Cinderella lives her life with her dying mother’s edict to “Have courage and be kind,” and does so without a shred of irony. Branagh has declared his intention to “Make something deeply uncynical,” and he has succeeded, quite beautifully.
Basically this is a story about two people who meet, fall in love and want to get married to each other, and how different is that from any romance or romantic comedy, or for that matter, from “Sense and Sensibility?” While the story is not changed in this movie, characters are fleshed out, and the key scene is when Cinderella meets and likes the prince before she goes to the ball, before she knows he’s a prince.
I’ve always found it hard to believe this story is really damaging to little girls, as I was one, and I have one. We have way bigger problems to face than “Cinderella,” and besides it’s the myth of the fairy godmother, not Prince Charming, that’s really dangerous. It’s glass ceilings, not glass slippers, holding us back (sorry, I couldn’t resist.) So sell me some popcorn and let me eyeball these incredible sets, please.
Having given ourselves permission as females to enjoy the movie, the production values are out of this world, beyond sumptuous, marvelously detailed, and spectacularly vivid. It was like the most gorgeous storybook come to life, and the crowning glory, among incredibly strong contenders, would have to be the wardrobe of Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine, the stepmother.
Maybe I’m just more excited about costume design than the average moviegoer, but I was gobsmacked by one marvelously draped green gown after another. If you prefer brocade, you can feast your eyes on the blue-eyed prince and his regalia. Played by Richard Madden from “Game of Thrones,” the prince shares with his TV character a dilemma of choosing a bride and, likewise, wants to marry for love rather than political advantage. Thank God his decision in “Cinderella” ends more happily than it did in “Games of Thrones.” But pretty much everything ends more happily than that.
Meanwhile, Lily James (“Downton Abbey”) is Cinderella, and while her positive outlook is emphasized, she certainly isn’t ugly. And I didn’t hate that big ol’ blue dress either. I appreciated the judicious application of computer graphics, assisting in the transformation of a goose into a driver and of lizards into footmen, who remained sharp-toothed and slightly green. Like everything in this lovely, straightforward film, their transformation was exactly what you expect from this familiar tale, only more beautiful and dazzling than you could have imagined.
The Southern Literary Trail Explores “The Reel Life of Eugene Walter”
One of the three Mobile authors showcased on the Southern Literary Trail, Eugene Walter published a wide variety of works — poetry, novels, short stories, plays, essays, translations, reviews, gossip columns, cook books and much more.
But in addition to writing, he had a passion for movies and was involved in many — as an actor, lyricist, researcher, and translator of subtitles, particularly during his years living in Italy. In “The Reel Life of Eugene Walter,” Don Goodman, the executor of Walter’s estate, examines his cinematic experience, tracing his love of acting from his participation in Aimee McCormick King’s Little Theatre in Mobile to his roles in movie classics “The Pink Panther” and “8 1/2,” and others.
The event is set for Sunday, March 29, the anniversary of Eugene Walter’s death, at 2 p.m. in Mobile Public Library’s Bernheim Hall (Ben May Main Library, 701 Government St.)