"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Have Courage and Be Kind

That was the message in the new live-action Cinderella movie. They said it a lot, so you'd be sure to know. But you know what? That's OK. Because it needs to be said. A lot. We've lost something of the magic and joy and simplicity and goodness of the earlier Disney movies. And this one brought it all back in a most wonderful way.

It's telling that I went into this movie with the lowest of expectations but the highest hopes. Despite all I'd read about it that never said so, I was convinced this would be another "re-telling" of a classic story. You know, the kind where they turn it into a movie about environmentalism or feminism or racism or anti-capitalism or industrialism or any number of -isms. People can't help making a story "theirs" even it means losing the timelessness that makes it a classic by injecting it with the quasi-political cause du jour.  I was sure they had done that to Cinderella, but couldn't have been more wrong. This is a simple live-action version of the film that has become a classic. Sure, they add some back story and focus on different things a bit (it's not a word for word, scene by scene re-creation of the animated film), but they stayed completely true to the story and the themes and the feeling of the original. Kudos to the director and producers and Disney itself for that, and THANK YOU!!!!!

The acting is superb and the casting is genius. Cate Blanchett is my favorite. She plays the wicked step mother as a mean person (a foil to Cinderella's "be kind" motif) without any apologies or humanizing or excuses. She's just mean and bitter and cruel, to everyone. You know, like a villain should be. The step sisters get some great lines and carry them off with gusto. The chemistry between them is terrific. The Prince is charming and lovable and good and kind and heroic (and his ball turns out much better than Rob Stark's wedding). Lily James owns Cinderella. She really shows that being kind in the face of meanness is not weakness, but rather strength. She is the bigger person and knows it and no matter how mean (I keep using that simplistic word because it's the best one. Mean is real and it's cool seeing a movie admit that) the step mother and step sisters act toward her, she stubbornly remains good and kind and forgiving. And it infuriates them, which is both awesome to see and completely realistic. Our children (and us parents) need to learn that lesson, and Lily is courageously and convincingly putting it out there. Helena Bonham Carter only has about ten minutes of screen time, but seems a much bigger part of the film because she fills those minutes to the brim with awesome. The supporting actors, from the animals turned into humans to the king's staff to Cinderella's mom and dad, are also spectacular. The acting is a joy to watch.

And the costumes. Wow. I could fill this blog with screen shots of costumes, but you really need to see them on the big screen. It's simply amazing what they've done. I'm a guy who can barely dress himself and *I* got how wonderful the costuming was. That's saying something.

I simply loved the message of courage and kindness, though. All the pretty clothes and scenery and acting in the world doesn't move me unless there is a real message at a film's heart. And I know there will be those who think think this one is trite. I mean it's not about social justice or lifting up the poor or downtrodden. Except that it really is exactly that. It's a fairy tale about real life feelings and attitudes and behaviors. Being kind is always right but often it's not easy. There is a lot of meanness in the world and in our social interactions, sadly even sometimes between friends and family. But when it's hard, even when sarcasm and snark and returning what you are getting are very tempting, kindness really should win out. And that's where the courage comes in. Two simple words, two simple concepts, but they are really at the heart of living a happy life. I am in love with this film for having the courage and the kindness to say so.

We were really moved by this movie, Lisa and I. We saw it on our way home from an indoor percussion event outside of Raleigh, sort of a date. Yeah, we've been married almost 20 years and we've rediscovered dating. Cinderella is, aside from the lessons of kindness and courage, a love story. And talk about tempting the sneers and sarcasm of the cynics out there, I'm going to go ahead and say it......Lisa and I have a fairy tale romance kind of love. It's been built over a LONG time, but we have gotten to the place where the old trite ideas of honesty and trust and basic kindness are just built into the DNA of the relationship. We felt all the feels at the same times and for the same reasons. I KNEW when the squeeze of the hand was coming, when the sniffle was coming. I felt the same things Lisa did and for the same reasons. It's so nice to have that level of comfort, of assurance. We have the kind of love that makes it easier for us to have the courage to carry kindness out into the world.

So, yeah, we loved it. It's a fairy tale. It's beautiful. It's simply GOOD in so many ways. If you have any magic in your heart, or need to find some, go see this movie.