Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett
Running time: 105 minutes
One of Disney’s well known fairy tales has been given a reworking as a live action film, and whilst it definitely did not disappoint, it did not entirely live up to the recent expectations which Disney have set. Where films such as Into the Woods and Maleficent gave a modern twist on the classic fairytale, Cinderella does no such thing.
Director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz have played it safe by sticking to the original, but that is not necessarily a bad thing considering how popular the animated version is. The duo have obviously tried to bring the story into line with 21st century values: Cinderella is most certainly not a damsel in distress who is waiting to be rescued by her Prince Charming. Lily James, of Downton Abbey fame, plays Cinderella with warmth and charm, making it impossible not to feel for her once her stepmother and stepsisters begin to treat her with distaste.
The film follows the classic story of Cinderella; beginning with sickly sweet scenes of a family so happy that it is obvious that something bad has to happen soon. Sure enough, tragedy falls with the death of Ella’s mother, leaving her and her father all alone in a heartbreaking scene. Within a few years of her mother’s passing, Ella’s father finds a new wife; the fabulous widow Lady Tremaine, who is portrayed superbly by Cate Blanchett. Moving into the family home, Lady Tremaine brings with her the moronic ugly sisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) who provide comic value, much to their mother’s distaste. Even when Ella’s father moves on and she is left in the care of her wicked stepmother, Ella recalls the two things which her mother urged her to have: courage and kindness. There is not an ounce of spite in her body, not even when her stepsisters give her the mocking name of Cinderella.
There is no denying that Cinderella is a lavish treat, filled to the brim with eccentric costumes, stunning backdrops, and plenty of CGI. The chemistry between Cinderella and Prince Kit (Richard Madden) is endearing and almost too mushy at times, but such a fact should not bother the hopeless romantics who have a soft spot in their heart for timeless Disney classics. The real star of the show is Cate Blanchett, who seems to be having far too much fun playing Cinderella’s cruel stepmother. Sneers and smirks light up her evil face as she taunts the girl.
There are comedic moments including Cinderella’s very own fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), the disastrous court painter (Rob Brydon), and the town crier (Alex Macqueen). Such comic value does not last long as the story quickly returns to the original plot, which almost seems a shame. But whilst it has been refreshing to see fairytales given a modern twist, Kenneth Branagh’s faithfulness to the original classic has resulted in a visually stunning Cinderella where happily ever after exists once again.