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A few nights ago, we went to see Cinderella. What a beautiful movie! The settings and costumes were stunning, rich with color and detail. The acting was good, and I absolutely loved the music. Though Ever After (1998) remains my favorite retelling, I enjoyed this version, even if the prince (Richard Madden) was a little empty-headed. The step-mother (Cate Blanchett) may not have been wicked enough, but they probably didn’t want to give young children nightmares. (I wouldn’t have wanted to live with her!) The mice (who don’t sing or talk) were a lot of fun. Best of all, in spite of her grief caused by losing everyone she loves, and the shame and aggravation of working for people who despise and mistreat her, Ella (played by the gorgeous Lily James) is true to herself. Her inner beauty shines. She lives her mother’s last admonition, to be courageous and kind, and in the end, this wins her the prince’s heart and a kingdom (with a little help from her ditzy fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter)).
What is it about this old fairy tale that causes such romantic sighing at the end? There are so many things that are irritating and improbable about the story and characters. And yet, little girls walk out of that movie spinning a pirouette and saying, “Dance with me, my prince. Oh, I’ve lost my shoe.” Older women walk out trying to disguise the fact that they have been crying. The difference between hope and lost dreams? Every girl, no matter how old she is on the outside, still holds that secret hope in her heart that there is someone out there who will recognize her intrinsic worth and inner beauty, and who will treat her with kindness and tenderness. He doesn’t have to own a kingdom or ride a white horse. He just has to have the courage to see beyond the outer trappings and treat her like a princess. In return she will give him everything — her heart, her body, a lifetime of service and slogging through every trial imaginable, just for that kind deed or word, that gentle look, or that loving touch that expresses how much he cherishes her. Ah, true love. Sigh. (And I know I’m writing from the princess’s point of view – but don’t princes also need to know they are loved? It would be interesting to write the fairy tale from the prince’s eyes.) In the end, the fairy godmother is right. Great things can happen when you combine courage and kindness, and add a little magic.

cinderella

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