<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Stellan Skarsgard, Nonso Anozie, Derek Jacobi, Hayley Atwell, Ben Chaplin
Cinderella is a good way for those who’ve forgotten their fairy tales to revise.
Disney is back with their fairy tales in a big way. Though they’ve changed their formats and updated things to make them more politically correct, they sometimes stick to the tried and tested formula of Prince Charming and the poor peasant girl. That’s how it is in Cinderella.
But with actor-turned-director Kenneth Branagh at the helm you know you’re going to get lots of pomp and show with a lovely period costume drama.
Cinderella for those who forget, is a story about Ella (Lily James from Downton Abbey) who loses both her parents and ends up with a ‘wicked’ stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and two rather nasty step sisters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) who treat her like a servant in her own home. Until of course she chances upon a prince (Richard Madden from Game of Thrones) who has a ball to which she is told she cannot go. The fates smile upon the kind and courageous and ‘Cinder-ella’, as she is dubbed due to her soot stained cheeks, has a hairy dogfather… oops fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) who turns a pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses but only till midnight. Poor Cindy leaves her glass slipper behind while running to keep a deadline and the prince will have his princess.
The story you know, as you know it, is all mostly there intact. It’s the treatment, the humour and the visual splendour that help you to enjoy Cinderella. And of course the inimitable Cate Blanchett who steals every scene.
And is that Helena Bonham Carter? I thought it was and it turned out it was. She looks different but very much in form. Her scene with the transformation of animal and fruit into items of grandeur looks like something out of an animated film: it’s scary, magical and whimsical.
There have been some who have said there’s no surprise or twist like there was in Maleficent and they’re probably right. I’d like to have seen some more backstory of the wicked stepmother, something that made me feel a bit for her. Also, the old-fashioned prince charming winning over the girl is probably not in keeping with our times of feminism and Frozen!
Speaking of Frozen, there’s an animated short of the film before Cinderella that is so unspeakably (perhaps I need a song for it) dull that you know Disney just put it in there to ride on the success of the film and the song Let It Go. The short before Big Hero 6 – ‘Feast’ – was far, far better than this one.
Cinderella will enchant your eyes and give you a chuckle but the kids in the audience did get a bit bored after the first half and as an adult you’ll probably wonder at things like ‘if all the magical items turned back into the original after midnight, how come the glass slippers remained?’ That’s just a sign that we’re all probably too jaded for fairy tales nowadays.
PS: There are some people who complained that Cinderella’s waist in the blue ball gown was way too small and promotes a negative self-image to girls who aren’t as thin but I say they’re simply being prejudiced towards slim people!