Posted: March 28, 2015 in Movie Reviews

Lily James_Cinderella

The story of Cinderella is about as classic as it gets. With dozens of iterations (through film, stage productions, television shows, etc.) and of course the most popular of which being the Disney animated film, Cinderella is apparently a tale worth telling over and over. In this go-around, director Kenneth Branagh lends his artistic vision to the age-old fairytale, creating a truly creative and visual feast for the imagination, whilst giving the story its own twist.


Summary: (No spoilers)
From a young age, the beautiful and kind Ella (Lily James—–Downton Abbey, Wrath of the Titans) has been nothing but a beacon of joy and happiness to her parents. When her mother tragically dies, her father marries the recently-widowed Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett—–Lord of the Rings, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) who moves into their quaint home and brings her two pernicious daughters with her. After her father’s demise, the young Ella is left to the malignance of her stepmother and sisters, and she quickly finds her kindness thwarted by their greed and spite.

Also starring: Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Nonso Anozie, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell, and Helena Bonham Carter


This story has been done so much, and the 1950 Disney animated film is so nostalgically endearing, it makes you wonder how this story could be done in a fresh, new way. Thankfully, however, Disney and director Kenneth Branagh discovered what makes this princess fairytale resonate with the audience and captured its spirit.

In many respects Cinderella is much like the original story, but it doesn’t adhere too much to the animated film. Oh there are certainly elements and nuances, for sure—–the shallow and vain stepsisters pamper themselves with lace and corsets and sing ridiculously out of tune; the evil stepmother stares chillingly at Cinderella as her cat Lucifer chases the poor little mice (one in particular is fond of overeating and is called Gus Gus, and all of which attend to Cinderella); the Fairy Godmother fashions a carriage out of a pumpkin and turns the mice into horses; and so on—–but for the most part, this film stands on its own.

From a production aspect, the film astounds. The set design has that visual luster and a splendid sense of color and whimsy to it. It’s evident that great pains were taken as to the attention to detail. Equally as incredible are the costumes: beautiful, rich, vibrant colors enhance the characters, placing them in both an authentic and fairytale-like environment.

Cate Blanchett, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger_Cinderella

Also done well is the cinematography, something not commonly emphasized in a princess fairytale film. There are several shots in particular that are so beautifully framed that you can’t help but feel a sense of artistic passion. Look for Cinderella to be mentioned at this year’s Academy Awards for these achievements, because only a handful of times every year is a film so deserving of it.

But it’s the acting talent in this film that truly shines. Lily James brings a certain poise to her character that truly embodies the essence of Cinderella, as well as managing to create among the audience a large sense of compassion for her in her depressing state of living. The stepsisters are devious enough, and certain characters such as the prince’s valet and Stellan Skarsgård’s Duke are more fleshed out than most directors would care to give to third-tier characters.

The prince, however, was the real surprise. Unlike the animated Cinderella, the prince is more than simply Charming. He’s referred to more often by his nickname “Kit” than he is “the prince”. Throughout the course of the film we discover that he’s an actual human being, having a moral compass and conceptions of his own rather than simply being the one who whisks away the princess at the end. We learn he’s seen hardships, has a poetic side, isn’t quite certain that kingship is his strong suit, and—–one of the film’s more beautiful subplots—–has a loving relationship with his aging father.

Lilly James, Richard Madden_Cinderella

As caricatured as the king was in the animated film (remember him bounding on the bed with a sword trying to hack the Grand Duke?), in this iteration he is an actual functional character. He is a role model for his son who needs much convincing that he is well-suited for the crown. In one scene between the two that displays their depth of love for each other, it becomes quickly evident that Kenneth Branagh isn’t interested in focusing primarily on the main protagonist.

But the real MVP of this film and the one who steals every scene she’s in is the multi-Oscar-nominated (and two-time winner) Cate Blanchett. Rather than simply portraying the clichéd icy, I’m-evil-just-because stepmother, Blanchett brings a level of nobility and even a hint of novelty to the character. She’s icy and loathsome, to be sure, but she’s classy. One scene in particular demonstrates her humanity by expounding on her recent past; giving us not only an understanding of her persona, but also her motivations. As much as her actions still aren’t condonable, you at least get the right to know why she is the way she is.

In a nutshell:

Beautiful, whimsical, and charming, Cinderella proves that you can adhere to the original story while still managing to bring about a fresh approach. Like Thor, Kenneth Branagh’s past work adapting Shakespeare is manifested in this film. Rich with character development, stimulating dialogue, and humor, Cinderella takes the time to weave a prominent fairytale within a slightly more enticing narrative. Unlike Maleficent which felt weighed down by tell-tale signs of multiple rewrites, this film feels comprehensive. It’s efforts like this that reinforce my faith in the live-action adaptation of classic Disney films, and merely raises my excitement exponentially for Beauty and the Beast.


8 stars



Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s