Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Glorious Realness Of The Wicked Stepmother In "Cinderella"

In the 2015 live-action version of the classic, Cate Blanchett continues a Disney tradition of villainesses being much more fabulous than the princesses they torment.

Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

As far as heroines go, Cinderella's a total milquetoast.

It's not all her fault. In their traditional forms, most fairy-tale heroines are paragons of comeliness and purity, stuck waiting on princes and the odd huntsman to save them. (It's the less famous ones, like the ladies of The Iron Stove and The Snow Queen who get to have real adventures.) But at least Snow White is all families-of-choice, Rapunzel is clearly working some serious solitary weirdness, and Sleeping Beauty takes a nap of epic proportions, and who doesn't love naps?

Cinderella, though — Cinderella just suffers in silence, remaining kind and dutiful and weeping quietly into the fireplace until a magical someone loans her a fancy dress so she can nab a rich guy she barely knows to take her away from all of the servitude into which she's slipped. She requires an extra layer of rescuing in order to be rescued! Also, she feeds the rodents infesting her own goddamn house, and Little Edie she is not.

And Disney's new Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh from a screenplay written by Chris Weitz, is steadfastly straightforward — a non-musical, live-action cousin to the 1950 animated movie, which draws from 17th-century French author Charles Perrault's version of the fable. It has Disney touches — like an anthropomorphised CGI Gus Gus the mouse — and it's as pretty as a painting, set in a gorgeous pseudo-Europe made up of picturesque mini-kingdoms and no visible lower classes. But it's still populated by flesh-and-blood people, including Lily James as the title character, née Ella, Richard Madden as Prince Charming, Cate Blanchett as Cinderella's stepmother Lady Tremaine, and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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