Amazon Studios’ new film, “Cinderella,” is the latest retelling of the Charles Perrault classic and, this time, screenwriter and director Kay Cannon gives the old classic a new spin. In this over-the-top unreality, characters break into song with all the prowess of a Broadway musical number as easily as most of us take a breath.
Despite this post-feminist environment, Cinderella is still waiting for her “prince” and crying over not being invited to the fancy party. Cannon has many inspired, creative moments and her redesign works.
Ella (Camila Cabello) is living the sad, tiring life of a servant after the death of her father. This sad situation leaves her with the duties of caring for her cruel stepmother (his second wife) Vivian (Idina Menzel). To make Ella’s life even more of a challenge, she has obnoxious stepsisters Malvolia (Maddie Baillio) and Narissa (Charlotte Spencer) breathing down her neck.
Little Ella dreams of breaking out of her dismal, sad home in the basement and stepping boldly into a churning, whirling world, showing the world her fashion designs.
But the world isn’t ready for an independent, creative, career-minded woman, so Ella tucks her dream of being a fashion designer deep inside her heart, just singing and venting her burning desires.
Now to the handsome prince, Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine), who is stuck in a life of ritual with his stuffy father King Rowen (Pierce Brosnan), and his very kind mother, Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver). Parents will be parents, and they are demanding that he find a suitable bride before he takes the throne. Let’s be real, the Prince isn’t feeling it, and he would rather kick it with his friends than sit on the throne. His über intelligent sister, Princess Gwen (Tallulah Greive) is better equipped to lead a successful kingdom, but she’s dealing with unabashed male chauvinism. The prince says yes to the grand ball with invitations sent to the entire kingdom, giving him a wide selection to find his perfect match. But even before the party, he
meets Ella, his true love, first discovering her at the announcement ceremony and then later, in disguise, bumping into her at the marketplace, buying an evening gown from her.
Before you think this version of “Cinderella” is without a fairy godmother, think again, Ms. Ella has the fabulous fairy godmother Fab G (Billy Porter) who is more than happy to work the magic and worth through the drama of her life.
Kudos to Cannon who brings forth our heroine’s internal and external motivations. This helps drive the story forward and paints a modern sheen on the antiquated classic.
In this modern retelling, Ella and the prince (theoretically) can start their life together while both attain their respective career ambitions. The issues surrounding class and wealth disparity are very much still a part of the story, with a rousing musical number (“Dream Girl”) that explores the issues. It’s a showstopper that casts a new light on an old character.
Some might argue the movie’s pacing is inconsistent and that character development is weak, but you have to remember, we all know these characters from the hundreds of retellings. It’s not that deep. Evil isn’t that complicated. Plus, it’s super easy to relate to Ella’s desire to fight for her peace and move into loving life.
The musical numbers are crafted like music videos, with quick, sharp cuts that keep that bubbly feeling. The wardrobe is lush and Ella’s magical ball gown is stunning and made for a future princess.
All in all, most of the casting is perfect but it’s Porter that steals the show. This gifted soul just does not disappoint when the spotlight is turned towards him. He’s vivacious. He’s vibrant. He’s exactly the supernatural help that I would wish to have. Plus, Porter has the “it” factor and his undeniable charisma sparkles like Broadway’s light.