I know someone who appears as an extra in this film and we all had a great time watching it in a group last night, cheering when she came on screen. I’m not sure if have chosen to watch it otherwise though.
As it is, I am glad I did because this new telling of Cinderella is actually a lot of fun. It isn’t clear to me why they chose to adapt this tale again, the jukebox musical approach could have been applied to any number of other less frequently adapted stories, but after years of others trying, we finally have a feminist version of this classic tale. Maybe that’s the reason it exists.
I tied myself in knots six years ago trying to argue that Kenneth Branagh’s live action updating of the Disney cartoon had managed this and I suspect Branagh tied himself in knots trying to do it. There are just key parts of this story; the monstrous step mother, the escape through marriage, the choosing a bride, the falling in love with a woman because she’s pretty, that present a real challenge when you are trying tell a story of empowerment and equality. Writer/director Kay Cannon has done a pretty good job though, albeit inevitably having to change some elements to make this work.
I won’t detail all of the changes she has made as there is joy, if little surprise, in discovering them for yourself but I particularly enjoyed the way the discarded glass slipper ended up on the steps of the palace and I liked the reason why she really, really wants to go to the fancy ball in the first place.
Anyone aware of Kannon’s previous work will have a fair idea of what to expect from this film. She is the writer of the Pitch Perfect movies and just as they built a simple, witty script around an eclectic series of rearranged pop classics, so does this. The screenplay is actually better than those for Pitch Perfect 2 and 3, but the karaoke mash-up approach to the songs is the same.
Here we get song choices as varied as Shining Star by Earth, Wind & Fire and Whatta Man by Salt-N-Pepa ft. En Vogue to White Stripes’ Seven Army Nation and Let’s Get Loud by J.Lo. There are the more on the nose choices of Madonna’s Material Girl and Somebody to Love by Queen but generally it is an interesting mix.
This last selected tune is also unfortunate in the respect that it was already used significantly in the 2004 Anne Hathaway film Ella Enchanted. The last thing this movie needed was any more reminders of that film, the setting, anachronistic tone and humour of which is very, very similar. So much so, in fact, that the inclusion of this Queen track might even be a deliberate acknowledgment of this. Minnie Driver was in that movie as well and she must have felt like the last seventeen years hadn’t happened. Fortunately this film is as infectiously enjoyable as that one and it is easy to get swept along by the party. There are a few original tunes here as well and these blend in nicely too. There are some interesting plot choices in the film, like Cinders apparently being happy to go in league with an unabashed murderer, and she still falls for the laggard Prince a bit quickly, but if you’re not tapping and clapping along with all of it within the first five minutes, well then you’re just not willing to have a good time
Driver is one of a recognisable and very game cast. The casting director seems to have spent time watching Channel 4’s Task Master and other British comedy panel shows as Romesh Ranganathan, Ben Bailey Smith, James Acaster and Rob Beckett all feature alongside more typical celebs like Billy Porter, Idina Menzel and Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan has a nice riff on his abysmal singing in Mamma Mia! that you can’t help but love him for. There are nice showings from up and coming actors as well, most notably Tallulah Grieve as the Prince’s sister and Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer as Cinderella’s. The real star is protagonist Camilla Cabello though, who gives a very strong and highly charming performance for a first movie from a non-actor.
Apart from my friend of course, she’s the real one to watch out for obviously.
Kay Kannon’s Cinderella is on Amazon Prime now.