Frances Winston reviews this classic fairytale, and finds it a film with something for young and old alike
Directed by: Kenneth Brannagh – Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter
Loosely drawing from the much-loved 1950 animated musical, this live action version of the classic fairytale sees Lily James step out of the shadow of Downton Abbey to don the famous glass slippers that nab her a prince.
Directed by Kenneth Brannagh, who knows more than a thing or two about the classics, this is a very traditional take on the tale. In case you don’t know the story (and if not why not) Cinderella is a beautiful young girl who has a happy childhood. However, when her mother dies, and her father marries Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) a family friend with two daughters, Ella’s blissful life is thrown into disarray.
When her father later passes away, and she is left in the care of her stepmother, things will never be the same, as she is forced to cook, clean and generally look after her step family, while finding herself confined to an attic room eating leftovers.
Seeking solace in the woods, she meets a handsome apprentice called Kit (Madden) not realising that he is actually the Prince. When the Palace announces that every maiden in the land is invited a ball to find a bride for the Prince, she is thrilled at the prospects of seeing her friend again. However, her stepmother bans her from attending, and all hope is lost, until she is visited by her Fairy Godmother (Bonham Carter) who transforms an array of objects and animals into finery fit for a Princess allowing her to attend the ball.
But the magic only lasts until midnight, and when Cinderella and Kit get caught up in getting to know each other,the clock begins to chime, forcing her to flee while losing a shoe in the process. However Kit hasn’t given up on her, and searches the kingdom for the woman who fits the shoe. The pair are eventually reunited and they live happily ever after.
Cinderella has set the bar pretty high for girls for centuries, and pretty much trademarked the idea that there is a Prince Charming waiting to sweep you off your feet, and this movie does nothing to dispel that myth. In recent years, Disney have been commended for giving us Princesses with more moxy, but Cinders here is old school. James simpers her way through the part, and is sweetness and light for the duration. Despite this she shows a lot more depth than she ever has as Lady Rose in Downton, and she is suitably ethereal and stunning to bring the fairy-tale princess to life.
The always reliable Blanchett is wonderful as the wicked stepmother, and revels in her malevolence. It is easy to go the wrong side of panto villain in a role like this, but she keeps it well-balanced and resists the temptation to go OTT. Meanwhile Bonham Carter revels in her role as Fairy Godmother, bringing plenty of humour and warmth to the part. As for Madden, he is suitably stoic and handsome as the lovestruck Prince, who does nothing except pine for Cinders throughout the film.
This film looks simply stunning, and there are some breathtaking sequences, such as the infamous ballroom scene (James’ dress is apparently made up of two miles of fabric, and it really shows in the movement when she dances). However, the one thing it lacks is darkness. Traditional Disney animations usually tend to have rather murky undertones, and indeed the fairy tales they are adapted from are actually very dark but there is none of that here. Instead it is frothy and fluffy and gorgeous throughout.
Other than that, this is very engaging and a nice addendum to the animated classic. Little girls will want to be Lily James, and her ballgown is probably set to be THE Halloween costume de jour for the under 10s this year. As an extra special treat the short Frozen Fever is showing before this movie, bringing all the beloved Frozen characters back to the screen, which will go down well with fans.
Not just for kids, this is a beautiful piece of escapism and fantasy, wrapped up in the familiarity of a well loved childhood tale. It would have been nice to have a Cinders with a bit more backbone, but that aside this is a beautiful piece of cinema that should entertain and enthrall all ages.
In Cinemas Now!