Cinderella (2021)

“A modern movie musical with a bold take on the classic fairy tale. Our ambitious heroine has big dreams and with the help of her fab Godmother, she perseveres to make them come true.”

– Anonymous, IMDB

I was pretty hyped for this movie, I saw a ton of reviews coming in that made it seem like it was an absolute trash fire of a film. So I was a bit surprised (And sorta disappointed) when I watched it and saw that, to my eyes at least, it wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be.

This version of Cinderella is a jukebox musical, meaning it’s sound track is composed of pre-existing songs. This is admittedly pretty jarring because the film is set somewhere in the late 1700’s to early 1800s (judging by the vintage hand-crank sewing machine that Cinderella uses in the film). Going beyond the songs the way characters talk often flip flops between feeling period appropriate, and very modern. I go back and forth between being just okay with this mix of time periods and hating it, how disjointed it is depends on the song, the scene, and the characters. Some characters feel very firmly attached to the period setting, while others feel like they’re a modern adult who was transported back in time and are making no attempt to blend in.

One of the things I saw people use to make fun of this film was the idea of “Girl boss Cinderella”, Girl boss being defined by Wikipedia as “a woman whose success is defined in opposition to the masculine business world in which she swims upstream”. In this film Cinderella dreams of owning her own dress shop, and faces opposition from her step family and the entire town for this. Her main focus through the entire film is attaining this dream, to the point that she turns down the Prince’s proposal because the expectations of being Queen would prevent her from opening her shop.

When I heard the phrase “Girl boss Cinderella” being thrown around I was expecting something way more obnoxious, something akin to those really annoying sales-pitch messages you get from people trying to sell you scammy leggings or make-up. Cinderella’s push against the sexist standards of her time is definitely not subtle, but for me at least it didn’t get to the point of obnoxiousness that others found it to be.

You know what I did find extremely obnoxious? The mice. Cinderella has three mice friends, though I might need to put “Friends” in quotes because she barely interacts with them. The mice talk with normal human voices, although this is just a translation convention for the audience. Cinderella just hears squeaks, but we the audience get to hear very annoying quips and comments from these mice for the entire film. It just feels so unnecessary, their comments don’t add anything to the scenes, instead they often detract from them. As a result I question why they bothered including them in the film, they easily could’ve cut down some of the runtime by just removing the mice altogether.

I’ve talked about negatives so far so I’ll offer up one thing I liked from the film: Stepmother’s backstory. The caveat to this is that, as with the majority of other stuff in this film, it’s not handled well. Up until the ball Stepmother is pretty overbearing, emotionally and at one point physically abusive to Cinderella. After the ball though, all the sudden Stepmother has this heart to heart with Cinderella where she confides that she’s so against Cinderella’s dream because she herself once had aspirations to master the piano. Unfortunately for Stepmother, her first husband didn’t like seeing ambition like this in his wife, and it’s implied that he divorced her because of it. So Stepmother’s experience gave her the impression that women having ambition beyond their home will harm them in the long run. Which is an interesting approach to take!… but the movie seems to hope that you forget or forgive all of the earlier abuse, which makes it hard to accept Cinderella and Stepmother’s reconciliation at the end of the film. It just doesn’t feel like Stepmother earned it, but I guess that’s for Cinderella herself to decide.

I could go on and on, but I’ll cut things short here. I would definitely recommend this film for a movie night, while it’s not the worst film I’ve seen the spectacle of it is makes it worth a watch. Though I will note that this film is almost two hours long, so make sure everyone’s comfy and ready for two hours of song covers before popping this one in the DVD player.

References

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