Anna Blackburn takes a look at artist Camila Cabello’s first film and examines whether or not there are too many Cinderella stories.
It seems that every few years Hollywood comes out with yet another Cinderella story. We’ve seen everything from the 1950 Disney animated classic Cinderella to Selena Gomez’s Another Cinderella Story (2008). There are countless other names you would recognize who’ve starred in Cinderella adaptations such as Julie Andrews (1957), Drew Barrymore (1998), and Lily James (2015), and those are only the films with ‘Cinderella’ in the title! So, with all of these adaptations of the classic fairytale, what makes Camila Cabello’s acting debut in the Amazon Studios original worth watching?
The film hasn’t been out long, but already it is not popular amongst critics with an IMDb rating of 4.2/10 and only 44% on the Tomatometer. However, fans on Rotten Tomatoes have given the film an audience rating of 70%. These clashing ratings make it hard to determine whether or not the film is worth your time.
“With all of these classic fairytale adaptations, what makes Camila Cabello’s acting debut in the Amazon Prime original worth watching?”
In an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, writer and director, Kay Cannon, noted three aspects of her adaptation which she felt were key to her version, but failed to point out the details which actually contributed to the originality of her retelling. The first is that she wanted to modernise the tale and give Ella a “drive” outside of finding a husband. Ella (Camila Cabello) dreams of having her own dressmaking business, but this personal goal can also be seen in Hilary Duff’s A Cinderella Story (2004) and in Selena Gomez’s Another Cinderella Story. This aspect of the film has already been done, but Ella and Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) aren’t the only characters in the film who are being kept from being their true selves. The modern feminist twist in this retelling of Cinderella is blantant, but it was refreshing to see this need for fulfillment of true identity in other characters besides the two leads, such as Princess Gwen, and have deeper insight into the stepmother’s harshness.
The film is also modernised through its soundtrack. Part of what makes musicals so enticing is original music which captures the essence of the story and characters more than anything else. While modernising the music makes the audience want to jam out with the characters, it was a bit distracting. It’s hard to feel like you’re experiencing the moments with the characters when you’re singing along to a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”.
Cannon also mentioned that diversity was a huge part of what made the film modern and unique. Not only was the film race-blind, it was also gender-neutral. Billy Porter, a black, queer, Tony Award winning actor and singer, played the ‘fairy godmother’: Fab G. On the Today Show, Porter said his tagline for the character is “Magic is love. Magic has no gender.” Porter’s hope of bringing an aura of gender-neutrality to his character was successful and uplifted by his attitude and outfit in the film. Camila Cabello as Ella brought diversity and authenticity to the role. Cabello herself is an immigrant who moved to the US from Cuba at a very young age and is a self-made woman. A strong Hispanic woman who achieves everything she wished for through hard work and dedication sets a great example for girls around the world, and Cabello sets this example as herself and through her character in Cinderella.
Whether or not there are too many Cinderella stories is debatable, since each one brings at least something different to the tale as time goes on. It's important to note that from early on it's clear the filmmakers are trying to do too much, but if you're a fan of musicals, the few original songs and performances by Cabello, Porter, and Idina Menzel are certainly worth watching, if nothing else. So if you're a fellow Cinderella story fan and someone who looks for the magic in every tale, this retelling of Cinderella is unique enough to deserve a real chance.