Cinderella is a well-known fairy tale and over the years there have been numerous versions of it. The tale’s origins appear to date back to a Chinese story from the ninth century known as ‘Yeh Shen’ or ‘Ye Xian’. Thereafter, almost every culture seems to have its own version and every storyteller his or her tale.
Director Kay Cannon’s ‘Cinderella’ is a live-action, musical adaptation of the fairy tale. With wit, sarcasm, a tinge of feminism, contemporary messages and a multi-racial representation, the tale appears to be fantastically fresh and appealing.
Set in an “old-fashioned kingdom bound by tradition”, the film begins with telling us how a young girl Ella got rechristened ‘Cinderella’, a name that is etched in our minds forever.
Living with her “practical” stepmother and stepsisters – the obnoxious Malvolia and the self-absorbed Narissa – Cinderella spends most of her time in the basement of her house along with her three pet mice.
She is not a damsel in distress, but a young woman with big dreams and aspirations. She is not interested in marriage; instead, she wants to be a businesswoman, travel the world and be a dress designer owning her garment shop.
On the other hand, Prince Robert, the “idiot son” of the King, is coaxed by his family to settle down. Select a girl and get married, they tell him. His father reminds him, “Kings marry for power, not love.”
Unbeknownst to Cinderella, Prince Robert sets his eyes on her at a chance meeting in the market square, where she sells him a dress that she had designed. He cajoles her to go to the ball (where the Prince is supposed to select his future wife). “There will be guests there from all over the world,” he says to her. “Open-minded people with cash to spare. I know them, I could introduce you to them if you like.”
Hoping for a business opportunity, she agrees to go to the ball. After which, we all know how Cinderella lands up at the ball with the help of her godmother. At the ball, when Prince Robert proposes to her, says to her, “You’ll become royalty.” Cinderella turns down his proposal by telling him, “But what about my work. I have dreams.”
What takes you by surprise, in a totally unexpected way, is the ‘Fabulous Godmother’ played by Billy Porter. Despite being on screen for a limited time with an outlandish outfit and flashy disposition, he leaves his mark in your memory space.
The others who are equally effective with their performances are: Camilla Cabello as Cinderella, Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Robert, Idina Menzel as the Stepmother, Pierce Brosnan as King Rowan, Minnie Driver as Queen Mother Beatrice and Tallulah Greive as Princess Gwen.
Packed with contemporary songs set to racy music – solos, duets, choruses, ensembles and dance sequences, the narrative seamlessly unravels like a dream. There are some 14 tracks, which have been intelligently interwoven in the narrative. Some of the songs are: Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’, Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation / You Gotta Be’ and Freddie Mercury’s ‘Somebody to Love’. Apart from these oft-heard numbers, there are some original tracks too.
Production designer Paul Kirby’s sets and Ellen Mirojnick’s costumes complement each other. They are colourfully pitch-perfect, filling DOP Henry Braham’s frames with dreamy pastel shades that transport you to the film’s dream locales.
–By Troy Ribeiro
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