A new 2021 iteration of Cinderella premiered on Amazon Prime Video today, and it’s quite the buzzy title after pulling in mixed reactions from critics. Let me tell you what I thought of the film, which reimagines the classic fairy tale in a modern way that hasn’t quite been done before. Transforming Cinderella into Camila Cabello’s Ella, an aspiring businesswoman trying to break free of the chains of her sinister stepmother, it puts a fresh coat of paint on the traditional story’s structure.
Redesigning the elements of the original, bringing the fantasy down to a more realistic, relatable approach, it’s trying really, really hard to connect with as many young people possible. Tying in aspects of feminism, independence, and refusing societal expectations, which are all great causes, can feel a little too on the nose sometimes.
Ella desperately wants to be a dressmaker and start her own shop called Dresses by Ella, but the times are not on her side with their old-fashioned mindset.
Ultimately, I think the biggest think going into this film is that you need to know what it’s trying to do. It’s not this year’s potential Best Picture nominee, but it’s not trying to be that either. It’s really okay for us to watch movies for the sheer enjoyment they bring! And this will definitely bring you something you’ve never seen.
Camila Cabello is convincing in her role as Cinderella, playing up the good-hearted girl from the basement wanting to start up her own shop on her own terms. She’s bright-eyed and ready to go, but she’s not easily impressed with the boring bouts that have taken over her community. That’s something a lot of people today will share a connection.
Nicholas Galitzine is a kind Prince Robert that we feel sympathy for in regards to her perception among the townspeople, but he’s not the slick, suited prince you might be expecting. At first, that might seem a little lackluster, but it really shows us how normal he is and attempts to break down the barriers among people from different societal classes.
Idina Menzel is truly menacing, maybe too mean (seriously, someone see if she’s alright!). Billy Porter plays a fantastic Fabulous Godmother, and my only critique is that he’s barely in it. Like, what you’ve seen in trailer is nearly the extent of what is honestly a cameo. I needed a little more screen time with him, but what we did get with Porter was a real highlight.
A sub-storyline that is maintained throughout the film focuses on Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) and his family Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver), King Rowen (Pierce Brosnan), and their daughter Princess (Gwen). There is a quiet feud brewing among the family, and it’s a source of even more comedy and social commentary.
Class structure, gender equality, global warming, and wealth disparity are all worthy causes in their own right, but having them all co-exist in Cinderella at once didn’t give them much time to be fully developed.
Audiences will feel emotionally invested in the storyline of Cinderella launching her own dressmaking business, and they’ll be adversely emotionally invested in the storyline of Cinderella’s relationship with her step-mother.
One of the aspects of the film that has been arguably the most widely-discussed on social media is the inclusion of pop hits on the soundtrack. The conversation around this started long ago before we had even seen any official videos or stills from the film, and the music is obviously an integral part of Cinderella.
On paper, it seems hard to believe that having Cinderella kick off with Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” shortly before a mash-up of “Whatta Man” and “Seven Nation Army” then a touching scene involving Ed Sheeran’s hit “Perfect” would be any good. But — and I might be in the minority saying this — in the spirit of the movie, which is kind of all about breaking the rules and defying expectations, the music works! Combine that with an original song titled “Million To One” performed by Camila Cabello (which I think was featured just a few too many times in the movie), and it’s a musical like no other. Do with that what you will because I know it’s going to rub some people the wrong way, but it’s definitely an original spin.
Shooting for an over-the-top, inspirational narrative mixed with some fresh stylistic choices, this new take on Cinderella relies heavily on feeling modern and its star-studded cast to deliver a fun yet predictable fairytale.
Cinderella is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.