The film hasn't opened yet. The question is: Do I bring my daughters, who are 8 and 6, to a kids' movie that looks like a bosom-heaving Harlequin Romance starring a #2 pencil in a blue dress and glass slippers?
Based on the trailer, and based on the life-size photo of the new Cinderella plastered on the Disney Store's window, her waist can't possibly be larger than a #2 pencil. There are lots of photos online of the actress who plays Cinderella and she has a perfectly normal, thin, human waist.
There's nothing wrong with thin -- there's everything wrong with distorted.
Director Kenneth Branagh claims he did not digitally alter the actress's waist. He insists she's wearing a very tight corset. Oh, Kenneth, you say this as if it's somehow redemptive. The actress, Lily James, claims she had to squeeze within an inch of her life to get into the corset. It's true that corsets were once a thing, and actresses still wear them on stage and in films to denote a specific time period, but why so tight for Cinderella? Why such an extreme? More so, why, in today's age of eating disorders and crippling low self-esteem among girls, do you want to present this kind of Cinderella?
Unless, of course, girls are not the target audience...
It's a Disney film. It's Cinderella. But is it for kids? Based on the melodramatic/romantic/humorless trailer, and based on the fact that the trailer ran non-stop during "The Bachelor," little girls munching popcorn and swinging their short legs from movie seats is not the first image that comes to mind. Instead, I see a theater filled with:
1. Pervy middle-aged men
2. Grown women in the mood for a good heart-thudding romance.
In the latest trailer for the film, the swoony prince slips his big, strong hand around Cinderella's waist and draws her close. The moment is tightly framed, filmed in close-up. His eyes burn with purpose, his passion palpable. The heat of his flagrant resolve sets my middle-aged heart on fire. My husband gets the same look in his eyes when the Thanksgiving turkey is set before him in all of its basted glory.
Ladies, when was the last time a man drew you in by your waist and looked at you like that? When the trailer ended, my first coherent thought was: When does this delicious film open and are there advanced ticket sales? Well-played, Mr. Branagh.
Bottom line: Better get there early, kids! There might not be any seats for you opening day.
An "Intoxicating Romance"... for children?
Here's how one film critic describes the scene when the Prince and Cinderella first meet: "[the Prince] conceals his royal identity as they circle one another on horseback. This puts them on equal footing as the seeds of intoxicating romance are sewn." Intoxicating romance? I'm not sure my 2nd grader and kindergartner are ready for an intoxicating romance on the big screen. Who knows, maybe it will be a super fun movie for kids! And maybe I shouldn't judge a film by a disfigured waist or its sweeping romantic trailer. Besides...
"You can't shelter kids forever."
Technically, kids aren't kids forever. So, we only have to "shelter" them while they're kids. (Who started that stupid saying?) Kids get to be kids for all of five minutes these days. Can't we just give them those five minutes? My daughters have seen the animated Cinderella plenty of times, the last thing they focus on is the prince. They like the evil stepmother parts, the Fairy Godmother parts and the cute mice, especially Gus Gus. Yes, there's a prince. But Cinderella is not viewed through his heartsick gaze. It's not his story -- and the moments between the prince and Cinderella are not presented in intimate, heart-stopping, cinematic detail.
For kids, the story of Cinderella is not about the magic of falling in love.
It's about the magic of things going right. Cinderella deserves to get the hell out of that torture chamber of family misery. And she deserves a new dress! Especially after her animal friends worked so hard sewing the first one. When she does finally get out, it's not a happy ending; it's a happy beginning. I tell my daughters that after the wedding the prince encourages Cinderella to enroll in college to become a veterinarian where she can continue working with animals -- her true passion.
All this psychobabble about Cinderella being a fairy tale that teaches little girls to wait for a prince is just that -- psychobabble. It's not solely a love story unless you go out of your way to paint it as one. It's a story of hope and resilience: no matter how awful your life is, don't let it change who you are at heart.
If Branagh's Cinderella is indeed an "intoxicating romance," maybe I'll make it a moms'-night-out. We'll order some apps, nurse some appletinis and catch the 9:30 showing. My kids can stay home and watch Lady and the Tramp -- two dogs touch noses over some saucy spaghetti in the moonlight.
Lord knows the "intoxicating romances" will begin soon enough in my daughters' lives. They don't need sweeping cinematic visuals to get them started.