Little girls everywhere will delight in “A Little Princess,” a buoyant and charming adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s stage play. A magical celebration of one young girl’s resilient spirit and triumph in the face of calamity.
Liesel Matthews stars as Sara, a wealthy English girl whose father is called to serve in the trenches during World War I. Since her mother has died, her caring father enrolls her in a New York boarding school, the very one her mother attended. Unfortunately, the tony school is ruled by a tyrannical and bitter headmistress (Eleanor Bron) who resents young Sara’s whimsical, romantic nature.
At once a story of separation, as well as a happily rambunctious depiction of the wonders of childhood, “A Little Princess” is a tribute to kids everywhere, for their magical, imaginative natures, which, unfortunately, are often squashed by bitter adults.
As Sara, Matthews is enchantingly resilient, while Vanessa Lee Chester is adorable as her servant-girl friend. As the ogre-ish headmistress Miss Minchon, Bron sharply conveys the prune-ish aspects of those who don’t know the power of dreams.
Entertainingly adopted by screenwriters Richard LaGravenese and Elizabeth Chandler, the film is lifted by Alfonso Cuaron’s warm and spirited direction. The technical contributions are wonderful. “A Little Princess” is swatched in warm rich colors, luminously captured by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and Bo Welch’s magical production design is rich with mischievous energy. Composer Patrick Doyle’s score shimmers with rounded and zesty reeds, and wonderfully conveys the ethereal, dreamy whimsy of the film’s lively essence.
xxxx “A Little Princess” Location: Lincoln Heights, North Division and Showboat cinemas. Credits: Starring: Eleanor Bron, Ian Cunningham, Liesel Matthews, Errol Sitahal, Vanessa Lee Chester, Rusty Schwimmer, Heather DeLoach, Kaitlin Cullum, Camilla Belle. Running time: 1:38 minutes Rating: G