Princes and Princesses. Hmmm…maybe more Princesses. The thing/s little girls’ dreams are made of. And big girls’ too. But big girls want more than the a sugar-coated ballgown and a handsome prince. Well, at least I do. I’m in need of more substance. More personality. Ok. Fine! I’m just so demanding. I mean really, do I need to be so difficult? But, I’ll be difficult no more. Why? Because finally, after searching and searching, film after film, I’ve found the royal couple who meet my criteria. Ella and Kit from the 2015 film version of the classic Cinderella story. They’re the only royal couple (factual or fictional) that have me walking around all twinkley-eyed and dreamy believing in fairy tales and happily ever afters (in their “stereotypical” sense of course). Because quite frankly, this is the royalty I have in mind by default. I’m sorry to say that the real royalty has no appeal – probably because I don’t understand it, but also because that marvelous magic just isn’t there (no offense meant).
Mention Disney Princess and Cinderella always comes to mind. So, having said this, I probably need to clarify that a) as you may know, Cinderella goes through pretty much 99% of the movie being a country girl and b) in the 2015 version of this 1950 Disney “remake” Cinderella is never a princess, she’s only assumed to be and then goes straight to being Queen. But, for the sake of this blog I’m taking the stance that there is something so much more dainty and appealing (probably years of media conditioning) about a princess than a queen and so “Princess” she’ll be.
And ah, what a princess Ella is. As the country girl. And no, not in the sense that she’s “being such a princess” but in the genuine from-the-heart sense. Her actions are princessly. Always. The introduction to Ella is made by her Fairy Godmother (the fantastic Helena Bonham Carter): “Once upon a time there was a girl called Ella. And she saw the world not always as it was but as perhaps it could be with just a little bit of magic. To her mother and father she was a princess. True, she had no title, nor crown, nor castle. But she was the ruler of her own little kingdom whose borders were the house and the meadow on the forest’s edge where her people had lived for generations.”* This opening already says to me that she is a beautiful child, not in looks but in personality, as I don’t believe nasty girls have Fairy Godmothers. At this point her actions are visually proven genuine – she’s wonderful to all around her, be it her parents, the staff or the animals. All of them are offered that wonderful smile. What a smile it is! There is no more suitable actress for this precious role than Lily James** and her totally natural, genuine and ah, (I close my eyes visualising) magical smile.
“Have courage and be kind” are the wonderful words said to her by her mother. Without consciously making an effort to do this she is that anyway. When her father wants to start a new chapter she’s happy as long as it will lead to his happiness. Despite the freely flowing insults coming from the stepsisters she has the courage to let them take her room and makes the best of the attic with her “bric-a-brac” saying simply that “No-one shall disturb me here”. If only we could all see the best in supposedly bad situations more often. And if we could all ask for more gifts like the first branch that her father’s shoulder touches purely because it means so much more than lace and such. Absolutely beautiful is when she invites her friends the mice to “have dinner with me” despite the dire circumstances. The subsequent quote of “She had little in the way of friends. Well, her friends were very little. But those friends she had she treated with an open heart and an open hand” sums up her personality and I think, makes her more of a princess than any title ever would. This unconditional kindness is shown in many other situations throughout the film.
The Cinderella story wouldn’t be complete without the Prince (Richard Madden***). Thankfully he is given a bigger role here than in the 1950 version. Because he too is so genuine and perfect prince material so any less screen time would have been plain wrong. Ella, or Cinderella by now, and Kit, the prince, meet because of the stepmother and sisters’ cruelness. They immediately feel comfortable with each other and show mutual respect irrelevant of status (be it known or not). From experience, I believe that people who have similar outlooks, similar values will have a natural behaviour around each other without having to find things to say or put on an act. That’s exactly what these two have. Neither lies to the other for impressions’ sake (Kit saying he is learning his father’s trade, an apprentice of sorts, isn’t a lie). He is never cruel or unkind and allows himself to take advice not only from his father and advisers but from Ella too. “You’ve become your own man” is a huge compliment any son could receive as far as I’m concerned. Here is a man who is princely in his actions more than in title.
I could go on and on about these two and their acts of kindness, actions, sacrifices, respect for each other etc. but I best leave that up to you to discover for yourself. Don’t want to spoil it all. There’s also so much more than just the royalty theme I could write about and so many beautiful quotes/lines to mention but they’re all waiting for you. One thing though: savour that wonderful scene where the Fairy Godmother transforms the pumpkin, mice, lizards, goose and of course Cinderella‘s dress. It is pure magic! And the stroke-of-midnight scene is magical in reverse. And…and…and…
“I do love a happy ending, don’t you?” Ella asks her father near the beginning. So do I! She’s definitely deserving of hers!
* Quotes taken from watching the movie.
** I found this on The Telegraph Website (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/cinderella/cinderella-disney-behind-the-scenes/, author unknown to me) and I couldn’t agree more: “We looked at literally hundreds of girls,” reveals producer David Barron, “and Lily, she just had that incredible combination of great beauty, great acting skills, but also great innocence. She’s possessed of the essence of Cinderella, I think, in a way that other girls aren’t.”
***Other cast: Fantastically directed by Kenneth Branagh, the Stepmother played by ever brilliant Cate Blanchett, the King is Derek Jacobi while Stellan Skarsgård is the Grand Duke. Others include Nonso Anozie (what a great Captain he plays), Holliday Grainger (Anastasia), Sophie McShera (Drizella) and a brief cameo-type role by wonderful Rob Brydon.
And did you know Cinderella was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design (Academy Awards 2016)? The costumes are absolutely magnificent all round!