Sunday, October 1, 2017

Classics: A Celebration of Cinderella By Lauren Ennis

Fairy tales have delighted audiences for hundreds of years. Perhaps no fairy tale maintains the enduring popularity of the original rags to riches tale Cinderella. Despite, or perhaps because, of its simplicity, each generation has not one, but several, variations of the tale to choose from. While each of these adaptations holds its own charms, all of them share the same enduring message that regardless of how dark today might be, with kindness and hard work there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. In honor of this classic tale this week’s spotlight will be turned on not one but three of my favorite adaptations of Cinderella at its most charming, romantic, and ultimately inspiring.
If the shoe fits, wear it!

Cinderella 1950: For a traditional take on the fairy tale there is no beating Disney’s 1950 animated adaptation. The film was Walt Disney’s personal favorite in the studio’s canon, and for good reason. With dazzling visuals, endearing characters, and an iconic score, the film epitomizes all that audiences continue to adore about Disney films. The film is largely faithful to the original tale and includes such staples as the wicked stepmother, the charming prince, and the magical fairy godmother. While this version may not break new ground in the retelling of Cinderella, it does bring the story to life in a way that reinforces its hopeful central message. The film’s only real drawback is its gross lack of focus upon the prince, who is relegated to a plot device rather than developed as a three dimensional character. Fortunately, the film’s supporting characters and leading lady more than make up for what its hero lacks. Disney’s Cinderella remains an ideal role model through her kindness, patience, strong work ethic, and refusal to either give in to self-pity or give up hope. While she make lack the girl-power of the studio’s later heroines, her optimism in the face of constant adversity provides an inspiring example of resilience. Over half a century after its debut, and Disney’s Cinderella continues to remind us all to get better, not bitter, and that with hard work and patience the dreams that we wish can come true.
Move over, Disney

Ever After: 1998’s Ever After provides Cinderella with a feminist flare by transforming the fairy tale into a historical drama. In this film, Cinderella is a 16th century orphan named Danielle De Barbarac who is forced by her stepmother to live as a servant in her own home before she eventually wins the heart of the prince of France. That premise is where any resemblance to past adaptations of Cinderella end. In this retelling, which the prologue presents as the ‘real’ story before embellishment gave way to legend, the only magic is that which is found in the human heart. The film keeps the story firmly within its historical setting and highlights the daunting social and gender barriers that Danielle must overcome before reaching her happy ending. The greatest pleasure in viewing this film is watching its spirited heroine maneuver around the restrictions of her era by using the very qualities that Cinderella is commonly criticized for lacking; independence, gumption, and grit. Despite the script’s emphasis upon her more modern traits, the script wisely puts equal emphasis upon Danielle’s traditional Cinderella qualities including her generosity, kindness, and patience. This multi-faceted portrayal makes her a heroine that audiences, much like the prince cannot resist. One of Ever After’s most unique features is the depth with which Prince Henry and his relationship with Danielle are portrayed. While he is charming, he is also very much a man of his time and social class. As a result, when he meets the very ahead of her time Danielle debates and arguments ensue that ultimately lead him to question the norms that he’s always taken for granted. It is through this intellectual and emotional journey that he becomes just as complex and compelling a character as his leading lady. The many interactions between the pair lend both credibility and chemistry to their romance that the majority of Cinderella stories sorely lack. The film also imbues its supporting characters with such depth and nuance that the entire cast of characters possess their own motivations and flaws that make them believable, if not always likable. While it may lack such fanciful elements as fairy godmothers and coaches made of pumpkins, Ever After weaves a Cinderella story that is cinematic magic.
Always arrive in style

Cinderella 2015: The greatest rival to Disney’s animated adaptation is its live action remake from 2015. Like its predecessor, the film is largely faithful to the source material and revels in the original tale’s more whimsical elements. The remake does improve upon the 1950 film, however, through the additional focus it places upon both Ella’s life with her parents and the prince. While these additions do not impact the events of the plot they do provide vital insight into both Ella and her prince that adds depth and nuance to their budding relationship. The film also wisely relegates less screen time to the supporting characters, allowing the central characters time to grow and develop. The film’s visuals verge on eclipsing those of the animated film through well-executed CGI effects as well as costumes and sets that are truly a feast for the eyes. This film also diverges from its predecessor in that it abandons the studio’s signature songs in favor of traditional storytelling. Despite their differences, the heroine of the 2015 film follows in the footsteps of her predecessor and inspires today’s audiences through her own resilience and her steadfast belief that a brighter tomorrow will arrive if only we have courage and be kind.

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