I’ve watched the previews; seen the trailers and read the reviews. Many of them say the same thing in their own unique order: ‘I had absolutely no desire to see “Cinderella” when it first came to my attention’. Who can blame them? There’s an inescapable cast iron ball of assumption attached to the ankle of “Cinderella” that can be directly attributed to recent attempts such as like “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”, “Mirror Mirror” and “Alice in Wonderland”. My opinions aside, the general reception of the modern movie adaptation of the classic Disney fairy tale is fairly mute. Then comes “Cinderella”, somewhat unannounced in the years first quarter, to show those movies how its done. Buy your ticket online so that you aren’t dissuaded by the “G” rating, the glitter and — In what will be your most trying test — the little girls dressed in frilly blue dresses that threaten to make you think better of yourself. “Cinderella” is a light but nonetheless enjoyable film that may be somewhat forgettable for playing it safe but is a great deal of fun without a talking rat in sight.
Not that I have any animosity towards the 1950 Disney classic of the same name, but clothed rodents that sound like their vocal chords have been run through Lucas Cruikshank’s blender might not posses the same charm that they did in the second dimension. This is not to say that Kenneth Branagh has created a film that is in any way more grounded than its animated counterpart, but he makes welcome concessions here.
It’s tempting to avoid the tedium of a plot synopsis with such a well known fairy tale but that would be unfair to those that genuinely don’t know the tale; fortunately, very little has been changed since 1950 for this one. Cinderella herself — who starts out as a young girl named ‘Ella’ (Eloise Webb) — is an orphan who has lost both her parents. In the beginning of the film she loses her mother (Hayley Atwell) and then lives alone with her father (Ben Chaplin), the film focuses very little on the grief of the family and instead moves ahead to when Ella’s father feels he must move on to another women after many years alone.
By now, Ella has aged and looks a lot more like Lily James who does a pleasant job with her role but turns few heads. The real star is Cate Blanchett as the eponymous evil step-mother. Kenneth Branagh gives Blanchett a role with little nuance or subtlety but she does play a villain with great screen presence who isn’t afraid to ham it up sometimes with a cackle here and there. She makes her moves on Ella’s naive father and moves into their humble home with her two daughters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger). Neither of the step-sisters are inherently ugly but Branagh chooses to focus more on the ugliness inside people here, which is another smart move.
From here on Ella loses her father whilst he is travelling and so she is forced to be a servant to her step family. Ella is then dubbed ‘Cinder’ Ella due as a way of mocking her dirty appearance as a result of being a slave. Though the underlying message of “Cinderella” is to be kind no matter what the situation and if you do so good things will inevitably come, and so Cinderella maintains her composure as best she can. Though after meeting the Prince (Richard Madden) she finds herself wanting for the first pushing to pursue her own desires when the Prince throws a ball which, unbeknownst to her, is to hopefully attract the mysterious commoner who the Prince has fallen for.
The rest is well documented history and there is little worth going over and discussing other than the appearance of Helen Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. As odd as it is to see her draped in frilly dresses with a wand and blonde hair, she undeniably kills it and adds a much needed bit of sass to the Fairy Godmother that is surely to get some laughs, it certainly did out of me.
Actually, there is a good amount of genuine wit to be found here. Rob Brydon even makes a small cameo as a painter that is certainly to make most Brits giggle at the appearance but also just as a side performance he gets some tangible laughs. Of course the humour is kept light as it keeps itself rigidly attached to the G rating but perhaps it should be commended that we have real proof that humour needn’t be edgy to be funny, its very refreshing.
Despite criticism leveled at Lily James tiny-waisted portrayal of Cinderella which many see as an archaic trope of Disney-past, which I deem particularly unfair, “Cinderella” ultimately provides an updated fairy-tale with a moral that is admittedly ham fisted but will surely teach the younger generation a thing or two. “Cinderella” holds the admittedly mediocre distinction of being the very best thing in the cinema right now but it does rise above those other pictures like a swan under fire from a flurry of pigeons, begging for the spotlight.
They aggressively mar the landscape but beauty shines through regardless.