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Kenneth Brannagh’s “Cinderella” Reviewed


Helen Bach told me of a friend of her daughter’s who wouldn’t go and see the live action reboot of “Cinderella” because of the “unrealistic body image portrayed. Apparently, the actress portraying the fairytale heroine, Lily James of Downton Abbey fame, “feet are computer altered be smaller and they forced her to a liquid diet because of the waist of the gown.”

Runners go on carb only diets before the big race and boxers abstain from sex before the big match. Whatever works. As for positive body image. This is to discount the line between reality and imagination, most people are attractive in their own way and learn to live with their body types but if they want to be an actor the chances are the lead in “Cinderella” needs to be thin and attractive. It is in the nature of the story. And to complain that this girls a misplaced sense of their own bodies isn’t quite accurate. It isn’t Cinderella’s fault that fat people are fat, or that fat people might imagine themselves thin. Or stupid people might imagine themselves clever.

Lily and her Prince Charming Richard Madden are a beautiful couple. His dark blue eyes match her dress and her open face matches his intense smile. They are the attractive, glamorous at the heart of the story couple, and the young girls for whom the story is written, can project upon them with ease. They can imagine being her or being with the Prince and if between the two this lowers their self-esteem, in time they will balance out fairytales with reality.

Speaking of which, there was a fine (except for the song -yet another dog by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez) animated “Frozen” short, the story of Anna’s (Kristen Bell, of course) first birthday since  Ella (Idina Menzel) was saved by true loves kiss. Except Ella has a cold… cute.

Everybody needs fairytales. Everybody needs to daydream. The luckiest, happiest person in the world, say Ed Sheeran, must escape reality in the deepest recesses of his imagination, as human beings it is our lot to be aware of our disappearance from the earth. Our cessation awaits us. And we need a way to cope with this through our imagination. We believe in a Cinderella of the mind even though we know it isn’t real, that we don’t look the way these people do, and never shall. Still, perhaps we will be King And Queen of our own family one day.

Writer Chris Weitz’s vision of “Cinderella” is lovely but ordinary.It looks great but it lacks the spark of magic it needs. Much like director kenneth Brannagh, it is a classicist view. The animated version was much, much better. Still, it is always a pleasure to see  Derek Jacobi (the Claudius in “I, Claudius” and he hasn’t aged a day in 40 years) as the King and Cate Blanchett -really a meany, though they make sure we know her reason (there in lies the tragedy -as Jean Renoir once noted), as the evil Step Mother. “Cinderella” is a story of refraction and expansion of the young girl, abused by step family and saved by love lucky and some magic. In these revisionist times, the tale is told fairly straight with giving the woman a more powerful position whittled down to her teaching him about bravery and kindness.

Look: we can’t live without illusion, life is too terrifying to be faced head on, and there is no reason not to resort to dreams, daydreams, imagination, to get us through. There is nothing to be said for facing it straight on (that’s why I have no time for atheists), rather we need a way to see ourselves as sovereign soul, as our own Kings and Queens. If our lives have no meaning, let us place meaning and patterns upon them. Recreational drugs do it, rock and roll does it, movies and music and writing: they are all ways for us to escape but to escape deeper into who we are. “Cinderella” is a pleasant trifle for young girls to imagine themselves in and when they come back to reality, also to know the difference between what is real and what is not but to use it soften the battering life gives all of us. Even Lily James, whose father died when she was eleven years old (she uses his first name as her last name for the stage), has dreams and daydreams. Enjoy yours, you are much better off revelling in your imagination than castigating the world for having daydreams you disagree with.

Grade: B

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