By Tom Quiner
Which movie theme do you find more appealing:
“Strip naked and let me beat you.”
“Have courage and be kind.”
If you said the former and enjoy a “50 Shades of Grey” type of movie experience, I encourage you to visit a liberal blog where you will probably feel more at home.
On the other hand, if the idea of a movie built around the themes of courage and kindness interest you, I encourage you to see Kenneth Branaugh’s “Cinderella.”
It is a total delight and appeals to all ages.
Mr. Branaugh’s diverse directorial resume’ includes Shakespeare classics such as “Henry V” and the wonderful “Much Ado About Nothing.” Last year, he directed the action movie “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”, which I have not seen yet.
I have always enjoyed his style and the way he can tell a story. He is at his best presenting a grand spectacle like Cinderella. And he plays the classic fairy tale straight. He doesn’t turn Cinderella into a feminist icon, eco warrior, or anti-hero. Says Branaugh:
“Keeping it classic is the twist. I always felt that it’s better to do a modern version of a story using the historical perspective, than say, make a story of Cinderella in Brooklyn in 2015.
I find that when you try and update Shakespeare to a contemporary setting too, you always pay a price.
In this case, the original material of Cinderella is far richer than my ideas, so it seems to me that it’s my job to make it simple. Just let the fairytale speak, because it affects us in a more complicated way than we think.
Audiences have already come up to me saying the film is about patchwork families, about child bereavement, about the politics between women these days. Fairytales are a psychological brain-worm that need to be left alone to do their work.”
He sticks to the story with its timeless themes of courage and kindness. The movie is a visual feast, and more; the writing, crisp and clever.
For example, the opening narration, done by Helena Bonham Carter, drolly describes the wicked step mother ( Cate Blanchett) like this:
‘She too had known grief, but she wore it wonderfully.’
For Downton Abbey lovers, the delightful Lily James (aka Lady Rose on Downton) breathed new life into Cinderella with sheer wholesomeness and cuteness, all this despite the cleavage displayed in the stunning gown she wears at the grand ball.
Ultimately, Cinderella works because it is optimistic and virtuous.
Cate Blanchett said the movie has…
“…an unusual quality these days. There’s not a cynical bone in this film’s body and that’s its strength. There is cruelty and jealousy in the movie too, but too often we don’t value kindness. In today’s world you think someone who is kind is a doormat, and the fact that this triumphs is really heart-warming.”
Fr. Robert Barron is a Catholic priest who comments on the culture in his video commentaries. He was struck by the Christian character that emerged throughout Branaugh’s “Cinderella.” Branaugh let Cinderella be Cinderella, which meant the Christian influences of the era in which it was written were allowed to come through.
You can watch Fr. Barron’s complete comments below.
So here is the question for Quiner’s Diner readers: will this movie really work for adults? Emphatically, yes. Here is my wife’s reaction to Cinderella:
“Such a wonderful movie. Something struck me – we watched 30 minutes of commercials and previews before the movie – supposedly screened for kids. I would not have wanted my grandchild watching any of that, but not only did Cinderella not have anything objectionable, but it has wonderful moral themes and it was a visual treat. I LOVED it.”
Some other friends commented on my Facebook page that “the movie was wonderful” and “I saw the movie this week and loved it!!”
Cinderella is doing great box office because it is cinematic story telling at its finest. This is what the movies should be all about: great values, great fun, great story-telling.
I think you’ll like Cinderella.