Sometimes when you’re in neuroanatomy block, you just want a happy ending. On that note, Disney’s latest live action Cinderella written by Chris Weitz and directed by Kenneth Branagh really delivered for me. I watched a 3 pm matinee showing with a gal pal this afternoon (livin’ Friday night large, I know!) and I squealed with childlike glee and teared up an embarassing amount of times. My friend turned to me at one point in the movie and whispered, “I am legit a 10 year old girl; this makes me so happy.” I nodded vigorously as tears welled up in the corners of my eyes watching the kind, innocent Ella (Lily James) do a few twirls in her new freakum dress: a bedazzled 50 shades of blue ball gown gifted by none other than
Miss Bellatrix Lestrange, ahem her fab fairy godmother.
Sure, I am just as much a fan of Frozen’s empowering feminist undertone, How to Train Your Dragon’s mantra of thinking outside the box, and Big Hero 6’s honest and sensitive take on grief and loss. Films geared towards younger audiences are delivering great stories with unexpected plot twists that add depth to the past collections of sugar-spice-and-everything-nice media that we shove down children’s throats. I expected similar story line adjusting to Cinderella. Would young Ella decide to forego princess life and start her own fabulous line of glass Louboutin’s instead? Would the nasty stepsisters team up with Cinderella and realize sisterhood that’s better than falling for a guy you’ve known one day? Could Prince Charming be a masculine, hot Asian guy? I don’t know, just throwing things out there.
Yet despite the storyline remaining true to the classic animated film, I was not disappointed. Ella lives charmed, golden childhood, which almost immediately crumbles into life of indentured servitude to her evil (smoking hot) stepmother and unbearable stepsisters (umm Daisy what are you doing here?). She runs into Prince Charming (Jon Snow you know nothing) in the woods, both are smitten, and she makes it to the ball with the help of
Bellatrix her fairy godmother. Dance floor magic happens, she barely escapes by midnight, but forgets her shoe. Prince searches kingdom far and wide for mysterious blondie, the glass slipper fits like a glove on cinderwench Ella, and… happily ever after. It sounds boring, but there is something to be said for a simple story that is well told. Let me be real, there was not a 10 minute stretch when my eyes were dry. The acting and storyline shines with heartfelt earnestness, and even without any surprise endings, viewers are left uplifted by youthful innocence and the simplicity of “courage, kindness, and a little bit of magic.” I think Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review said it best:
At a time when that deconstructive urge is the norm, and in an area of fiction—the fairy tale—that has been trampled by critical theory, Branagh has delivered a construction project so solid, so naïve, and so rigorously stripped of irony that it borders on the heroic. You could call it “Apocalypse Never.”
Yet can we believe for a second that unyielding kindness will not always be taken advantage of by the cruel stepmothers of the world? Can we believe that love can blossom so easily, and that all boys are princes with honorable intentions and steadfast dedication? Can we all have fairy godmothers that make us look #Flawless*** with the snap of her wand? Can we believe that we will all get A’s in neuroanatomy? I think you know the answers to those questions, dear reader. Yet that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate when a good fictional fairytale is delivered with such earnestness, care, and tasteful panache. Watch it and revel in the magic of Disney for a solid 105 minutes. It does a soul good.