By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –
Practically every little girl yearns to be a princess. Despite the images that the Disney princess brand might project onto impressionable young girls, such fantasies are unrealistic (most of the time). Children’s literature is also full of princesses, magic spells, and fairy tales. The special quality about Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic juvenile novel A Little Princess is that there is a unique balance between fantasy and reality in one of the most beloved works for young readers. It is no surprise, then, that Alfanso Cuarón would want to direct a major film adaptation of such a famous classic. The final result is a very charming family film that appeals to both parents and children as they learn about what it really means to be a princess.
Two of the best elements of this film are its production design and cinematography. This film definitely deserved its Academy Award nominations in those two specific categories. Emmanuel Lubezki earned his first nomination for creating brilliant shots that honor the enduring themes of the original novel. The overall design of the film is lovely, especially the boarding school and the scenes that take place in India. The overall design of the film really does look like a fairy tale come to life!
Even with such fancifulness and playfulness, some of the scenes in India feel a bit exaggerated and unrealistic. For example, there is a monster that appears a few times in the Indian scenes that looks frightening not because it is scary, but because it looks really fake. The stark contrast between the scenes in the boarding school and the scenes in India might have been intentionally made that way, though, in order to highlight how the real world is NOT a fairy tale. Maybe that subtle distinction could explain why this film earned its two Academy Award nominations.
Years before they teamed up to produce the Oscar-winning film Gravity (2013), Alfanso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki did some charming collaborations in the 1990s. Cuarón also did a wide variety of projects after A Little Princess, including the modernized adaptation of Great Expectations (1998) and the Oscar-nominated Spanish-language film Y Tu Mamá También (2001). Lubezki’s skills as a cinematographer are definitely showcased in A Little Princess, so it is no surprise that he would eventually receive three consecutive Oscars for Gravity (2013), Birdman (2014), and The Revenant (2015). A Little Princess might not be the perfect family film, but it is still a charming adaptation of one of the greatest novels intended for children.
A Little Princess (1995) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: during every scene full of color
Make Sure You Are Not Sober: during every dark and depressing scene
And Pretend that You Are in an Irish Pub: every time the color green appears