A Little Princess (1995)
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Alfonso Cuarón (`Y tu mamá también'), showed us in this film a masterful domain of the dramatic conduction combined with an excellent photography and a first-rate edition job.
For example, a deserving scene is when Sara (Liesel Matthews) wakes up and starts getting up to find the transformation of the rickety attic in a marvelous environment just made with cloths, fruits, food and incense with Hindu reminiscent. It's a fast sequence of five different shots which emphasizes the magic moment for the girl. The astonishing surprise relaxes the magic to a real world that can be good, just with the appearance of the little monkey of the Hindu servant Ram Dass (Errol Sitahal), showing to us that he, in some way, transformed the attic in the meanwhile sleep of the two girls.
Another exceptional, but very simple made scene, is when Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron), in a crude way informs Sara that her father, an English captain of the British army, died in the war some weeks ago, and the British government confiscated all his properties, leaving her in misery. At the same time that the speech occurs, a black balloon slowly displaces floating near, exploding at the very moment in when she says that she's completely alone in the world, symbolizing that her fantasies are dead and must face the crude reality.
It's interesting to note that the hero of her fantastic stories, Prince Rama, is her own father in the movie (Liam Cunningham) and the heroin, Princess Sita (Alison Moir), is her mother, who died some years ago.
The interpretation of all the actors its extremely well directed and performed but the roll of Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron) is remarkable.
It's not a movie about a false expectance; it's a movie about fantasies and the necessities to have a hope in the future, being able to dream and therefore make plans. (Remember `La Vita è bella' from Roberto Benigni).
Sorry for my English grammar, but is very difficult for me to express my thoughts in a different language than my native one.
Nevertheless, this film made me realize that all I ever believed was never lost in me, but rather, simply inert and obscured. As my emotions swayed along with the joys and plights the little child Sara endured, I realized I am still as humane and compassionate as I always have been, and that it just doesn't show too much on the exterior anymore, that's all.
Each time my eyes went moist, I felt happier with myself.
Too bad this film did not do too well in the theatres, as I find the film quite moving and uplifting. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!
Some reviewers here on IMDb have slammed the film as overly sentimental. If you don't like movies with a sweet disposition, this isn't your film. Let's put it this way: if you think Frank Capra was the bane of American film-making, you're gonna hate this movie. If you judge films on a "the darker, the better" scale-why are you even watching this? Another caveat: I haven't read the book. The movie apparently takes great liberties with the book. If this kind of thing bothers you, stay away.
Alfonso Cuaron shows a deft handling of the sense of wonder here. When he was announced as the director of Harry Potter 3, his work on Little Princess made me confident he'd deliver the goods. One reviewer tried to declare that "Princess" was a calculated attempt by Cuaron to to get a gig on the Potter series. Impossible. "Princess" was released in 1995, and "Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone" was PUBLISHED in 1998.
This is a small, quiet, sweet little film the entire family can enjoy, without insulting Mom & Dad's intelligence. It is the next step for all little girls who are starting to outgrow Belle/Ariel/Jasmine and the rest of the animated princesses. This Little Princess is real, and her story is worth watching.
Side note-little boys might not find the film engaging. It is kind of chick-flick for the tween set. That doesn't mean it's totally male-unfriendly. Fathers of daughters will be hard-pressed to avoid shedding a tear or two.
If you have a tween daughter, save some rental money and just buy it! She's going to watch it over and over.
Rarely does a film completely draw you into it's world and grab hold of your emotions like this one. The imagery and design elements are remarkable. The passages from India are mystical and powerful, the use of green throughout the design elements is inspired and helps create this world of wonder seen through a child's eyes. Even though, we can guess the ending, it still manages to wring you dry of tears before the final lovely "silent movie" fade-out.
A pure delight from beginning to end! (this must be seen on DVD to fully appreciate the design elements)
Probably this movie is only appropriate for kids 8 and up, (depending on how worldly they are, I suppose), and perhaps that's why it did so abysmally poorly in the theaters. Still, it's a great film.
Marvelous rendition has Liesel Mattews as fanciful little girl and Liam Cunninghan as her lovely father and of course the spiteful governess well performed by Eleonora Bron. Besides appear as secondaries Vincent Schiavelli and the future great star Camilla Belle. Although many liberties are taken from original novel contains vivid performances and luxurious scenarios filmed on Burbank studios creating a nice film for children and adults. Spectacular production design by Bob Welch , adding a colorful cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, director's usual. Evocative and imaginative musical score with oriental influence on the glamorous dreamt images .The motion picture is brilliant and stunningly directed by Alfonso Cuaron(Children of men,Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban, Great expectations). Another adaptations about this classic story are the following : the vintage version by Walter Lang(1939) with Shirley Temple and Ian Hunter(Liam Cunninghan lookalike role) and Mary Nash(Eagle-eyed Eleonora Bron character) and TV rendition (1987) by Carol Wiseman with Amelia Shankley and Nigel Havers.
1. All the original and creative ideas that she comes up with on her own in the book, are here spoon-fed to her by her father.
2. The enchanting Hans Christian Anderson style fairy tales she tells are turned instead into dark, heavy, epic Hindu myths.
3. A major change to the plot/ending changes the whole story, glossing over Sara's (originally) very real loss, and obscuring the point that sometimes bad things DO happen to good people-- and that one can triumph over adverse circumstances without their turning out to have been just mistakes after all.
4. Worst of all, the whole definition of what it means to be a princess is altered: from an ideal of always behaving towards others from a center of strength, with kindness, courtesy, generosity and respect, even when they are treating you badly, it becomes a vague sort of entitled 'specialness' because "ALL girls are princesses", didn't you know? Even when they are behaving like disruptive brats.
If you like the movie, that's fine; but my advice would be to do yourself a favor and read the book instead.
There are many other things wrong with this movie- too many to list, but here are just a few of the larger ones: This story should be set in Britian in the mid 1800s, not America during the first world war. Miss Minchen is harsh to Sara from the start, making her actions when Sara is left penniless much less startling than they would be if she was syrupy sweet at the beginning, as she is supposed to be. Nowhere is it mentioned that Becky is black. Sara's father does *not* come back, he is dead. It is his closest friend, and collaborator in the diamond mines who finds Sara, and restores her to her proper place. In fact, the diamond mines are not even mentioned at all, though they are the source of Sara's wealth.
All through everything that Sara has faced, she always acts like a Princess, giving what she can, and forgiving those who hurt her. She would never have called Lavinia a "snotty two faced bully". Such a thing is completely out of character for her, and undermines the entire philosophy that she is to be well behaved no matter what.
This is by far the worst adaptation of a book to the screen that I have ever seen (with the notable exceptions of "Ella Enchanted", and "Anne of Green Gables the Continuing Story")The plot of the book is wonderful, and skillfully written, so I do not understand why the director felt that it needed to be changed to make it interesting. I would suggest that anyone wishing to know this story should watch the 1987 version, which is far superior. Or better still, read the book. It will be more worth your time than the hour and a half wasted on this version on the movie.
In principle, the acting, the sets and the music were excellent, and are the main reason why I'm rating this a 4. The other nice thread Disney picked up out of the book (so far, they're the only ones) is Sara's storytelling.
In this version, Sara is a little too self-sacrificing for my taste. There is no way she would have deliberately lied to Miss Minchin just to stop her punishing the other girls; in the book she makes a point of describing lies as "not just wicked, but vulgar."
There's also far too much of a Disneyfied ending for me; Sara's father coming back from the dead and having his amnesia/brain fever cured simply by seeing his little girl, and all of them trotting off into the Indian sunset. While the book does have a happy (and critics might say equally improbable) ending, it doesn't leave you thinking, "Oh puh- leeze."
However, to be perfectly fair, Disney isn't the first one to do this ending; instead, they ripped it off from the Shirley Temple version. Still infuriating to watch (why couldn't they have ripped off the BBC ending, if they had to rip off anyone?) but I suppose it's marginally better than having them just rewrite the book.
About the only things true to the book were:
1. Sara's father being a soldier 2. The lines between Sara and her father ("Are you learning me by heart?"/"No. I know you by heart. You are inside my heart.") 3. Sara's friendship with Becky, and her 'adopting' Lottie (although this last one wasn't developed as much as it could have been) 4. The changing of her room by adding various luxury items. That part was brilliantly done. 5. The basic core - a rich girl being flung into poverty suddenly - is there, but that's about all that is.
People might say that this adaptation is more for the younger audience. Possibly. All I can say to that is I have two cousins - aged 7 and 12 respectively - who were big fans of this film until they read the book.
If all you want is a 'feel-good' family film, then this delivers. If you're looking for a film that actually tells the story of A Little Princess (in fact, if you've read the book) don't waste time with this one. It's such a shame; with a cast like this, if they'd stuck to at least the basic story it could have been fantastic.
Am I harping on about 'read the book' this and 'read the book' that a little too much? Very probably. But if someone attempts to adapt a book - especially such a classic - into a movie, then they should at least have done the same thing. I was led to believe this was an adaptation of the book, not a remake of the Shirley Temple version.
In real life when the police are called to arrest a 10 year old girl for theft, the SWAT team arrives and proceeds to rush the building. That's just how it is.
In real life when a child, supposed to be reading aloud a classic book, veers off script and begins to improvise a more interesting plot line, the evil school marm will immediately yank the book out of the girls hand and search it frantically, looking either for her version of the story, or just how the girl is able to recite the book without looking at it. That's just how people act.
In real life you can revive a person from their amnesia just by yelling at them. That's just how it is.
In real life, women who were former school marms, who take advantage of little cute innocent girls, but don't really do anything illegal, get stripped of their wealth (again for no apparent reason) and become chimney sweeps who's boss is a 9 year old boy. That's just how it is.
This film was melodramatic, contrived, trite, hilarious (for all the wrong reasons), poorly acted (the plump assistant in the school gave the most embarrassing performance this side of local puppet theater), and written littered with clichés to support all the plot conveniences required.
The art and set direction however, was top notch; hardly a reason to subject yourself to this monstrosity, but beautiful to see, nonetheless.
Go watch Matilda and forget this cheesy Hallmark train wreck.
The entire POINT of the book is that she thinks of herself as a princess... and it's all about her behavior; nothing else. That's her goal - to behave with dignity, regardless of what happens to her.
In the book, she is honest, honorable, brave, and behaves with dignity. Regardless of what happens to her, she does not behave poorly. She does not try to retaliate. In this terrible film, she engages in pranks to get back at those who mistreat her.
Horrible. The film is visually beautiful but horrible. Really - read the book to your daughters. Don't visit this awful film on them.
My issue is with Sara. The Sara in the book was a MUCH better PERSON than the Sara Crewe in the film. In the film, Sara was spiteful and petty. She retaliated against those who wronged her. The whole POINT of the book was that horrible things happen and life is unfair and just because you are good doesn't mean good things will always happen to you. Unfair crap happens and it's how we RESPOND that matters.
In the book, Sara Crewe had dignity and character. She took it on the chin and maintained her personal dignity. I was SO disappointed in the film. I've loved the book for my entire life. To have Sara changed so was a terrific disappointment.
Given that the entire point of the book was Sara - who she was and how she handled horrible adversity - I must say I hated this film. I felt they destroyed the character.
I highly recommend THE BOOK. It is amazing. In the book, Sara is honorable and decent and she does the right thing... BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT. She doesn't have a spiteful bone in her body.
In the film, she is mean-spirited and spiteful. She does little things to get back at Miss Minchin. In the book, Sara is above such things. She DOES stand up to Miss Minchin. She tells the truth and is not cowed by her. But she does not do the stupid, spiteful things that the Sara in the film does.
It's really rather unsettling to me that so many here say they loved the book and they love the movie. I can't help but wonder... did we read the same book? The whole point of the book was personal responsibility, behaving with honor and integrity, ALWAYS telling the truth and facing adversity with calm and integrity.
Sara has a happy ending in the book - not the ridiculous survival of her father, but the joining with his partner who has been searching for her. In the book, she is taken in by this new father figure who loves and cares for her and Becky. And Miss Minchin is NOT a chimney sweep - that part of the film really was stupid.
To see all this praise for this wretched film is disturbing to me. We are praising a film that glorifies petty, spiteful behavior with a few tips of the hat to kindness? Sara in the book was kind to the bone and full of integrity. I don't even recognize her in the film... she's not in it.
Good thing Mrs. Burnett isn't alive to see this horrid thing. It's ghastly and undeserving to bear the title of her book.
In the book, Sara is honorable, kind, strong, and NEVER does anything spiteful to get back at anyone. That's the POINT of the book! She behaves as a "princes" regardless of circumstances. An important part of behaving like a princess is to not return unkindness. It is to behave honorably regardless of how you are being treated.
In the book, she endures much and touches the lives of others. Other people change their behaviors after they witnessed her kindness and ability to endure without sinking to spite and vengefulness. Sara does what is right simply BECAUSE it is RIGHT.
Outside of the bakery, she comes upon a beggar girl who is more poor and hungry than she is. She has half a dozen hot buns. She is VERY hungry. She gives one bun to this wild looking little girl huddled on the doorstep of the bakery. When she sees how ravenous the girl is and watches her gobble the bun, she gives her another. She continues to do this until she has given 3 or 4 I think - I don't remember how many.
The baker is watching through the window. She is so moved by what she has witnessed, she takes the beggar girl in and raises her as her own daughter. Other people are similarly influenced by Sara.
And in the book, her father has died. The man next door is her father's partner - he has been looking for her. Her father did not lose his money after all - the man is thrilled to find Sara; he takes her and Becky into his home and raises them as his daughters. And Sara has her full inheritance, of course.
Miss Minchin is not a chimney sweep. In fact, she remains in her same post at the school. But she is humiliated as Sara has told her new guardian of the cruel treatment she received. And Sara does speak to Miss Minchin in the end - Miss Minchin is trying to minimize her treatment of Sara and Sara with a calm steadfast demeanor, instructs Miss Minchin that she had been cruel.
There is no comeuppance for Miss Minchin. She continues on in her miserable existence. It does not matter - what matters is that Sara has a home with a guardian who loves her - and her dearest friend in the world, Becky, is now for all intents and purposes, her sister.
The book is about love and honorable behavior under the worst of circumstances. It is about self control and humility. It is a wonderful book. This film does NOTHING to capture the true story and messages of the book. My wife was so disgusted with it, she wanted to leave the theater in the middle, but we decided to stick it out. We were not rewarded.
I cannot for the life of me think of a reason the film makes should alter this excellent book in such a bad direction. Perhaps it was the influence of the ghastly screenplay from the book that Shirley Temple acted in. I don't know - but this film is so far from the book in character and values that I do not recognize it.
Don't waste your time - buy the book. It is unforgettable... even for a dad!
In this remake, the occult takes center stage: witches spells, Hindu magic, etc. In other words, it has Liberal written all over it, which is one reason Roger Ebert loved it. The head mistress and one of the little girls, both playing villains, overdoes it. The ending is stupid, too.
The best part of the film is its looks: it's beautifully films with lots of nice golden and brown hues. The sound is excellent, too. Liesel Matthews does a fine job in the lead role as the modern-day Shirley Temple. Eleanor Bron is effective as the mean woman.
This would have been a fine re-make if it hadn't gone overboard on the occult baloney.
As a film, it is an enduring work, worth more than the sum of its parts. Indeed, all aspects of the film work together seamlessly. The script is excellent and the cast is strong.
Liesel Matthews provides a sensitive and emotional performance as Sara Crewe, her wide eyes alternately filled to the brim with passion, or achingly desolate. Vanessa Lee Chester provides a strong performance as Becky, and Eleanor Brom's calm, calculated performance prevents Miss Minchin's character from becoming caricature.
Emmanual Luzbeki's cinematography is stunning and artistic. The soundtrack is charming, and the scenes are filmed artistically, with a level of openness and approachability that is much to be commended. A dream sequence in the middle of the film where Sara sees neighbour Ram Daas in the house next door and dances to the drifting snowflakes is a triumph in artistry. The banquet scene, with its sumptuous mise-en-scene, is made resplendent with the joy exuded by the talented young actresses.
As an adaptation, it is a powerful piece; though it strays from the novel, it is done so tastefully, in the style of the novel, and the climax is both heartbreaking and incredibly heart-warming.
A Little Princess is precisely the type of movie every child should watch- and every adult. It goes to the heart of what it means to be human; to suffer, to live graciously, to love, to take joy in the small things and to take comfort in each other. It is a magical experience, and completely satisfying to watch. After seeing this film, you would have to be heartless to forget it.
I will not criticise the fantasy scenes to great lengths. They are of course lacking because of technological limitations, and I am hard pressed to find where exactly the rest of the millions in the budget went towards. Childlike imagination has always been captured on film in absurd, illogical and flashy ways. The clean, dominant colour schemes are a trademark - see here the bright blue skin of Prince Rama. But there isn't much else that drives these daydreams. They aren't enough of a consistent presence to be afforded its own atmosphere or emotion, and are illogical on the wrong level - like scattered bits of a storybook filmed and tossed in. When this works and is driven by the narrative itself, they can certainly be interesting. See The Fall or Heavenly Creatures and how the fantasies actually take on a life of their own, morphed by the very malleable minds of children and their imaginations.
Like a children's book, the narrative is simply and stereotypically drawn, with clear dividing lines. Sara is the angel that never puts a wrong foot forward. Her mortal enemy and opposition is the very essence of evil; a soul-sucking, money-grabbing witch who seems to command the very heavens herself. No seriously - every evil act and dramatic proclamation is accompanied liberally by thunder, as if her tyrannical dialogue and expression weren't enough. Every last drop of baddie is milked from her, and there is seldom a line that isn't a contribution to this cause, leaving the rest of her character a rather empty shell (except for that hilariously hammy zoom into her single tear). The girls' little victories against her are uninspiring. Take the scene where she leaves and they hatch a plan to rescue Sara's locket. She is out the door not seconds before they jump into action, and then seconds later we are cutting from her shivering in the cold and a closeup to her forgotten gloves. But this is a children's story, of course, so even as the confrontation is telegraphed to us, we know that the girls will somehow escape unnoticed. Minchin is finally defeated in the most ludicrous way. At least a conventional Hollywood film would make the protagonists do some of the heavy lifting. Here, amnesia is the vague barrier in the narrative, and when the story finally calls for resolution, it simply vanishes so we can be shown that happy ending. How lazy and obscure.