I admit I have a soft spot for fairy tales, Disney and Disney Princesses. Following the recent foray into re-working classic fairy tales with films such as Maleficent and Into The Woods, we now get a more traditional story in the form of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella. But can a modern audience be captured by the magic of an overly familiar tale?
Ella (Lily James) is a young, beautiful and kind girl who lives with her father. Years after her mother passed away her father decides to remarry. Unfortunately the woman he chooses to marry, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) treats Ella badly and encourages Ella’s stepsisters Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) to do the same. After her father dies her Stepmother’s behavior worsens. After a ball is arranged at the castle in hopes of finding Prince “Kit” Charming (Richard Madden) a wife, Ella hopes she may be able to attend. But with her wicked stepmother and stepsisters in the way, can Cinderella find a way to go to the ball?
So the big twist with this version of Cinderella is that there is no big twist. There’s no knowing winks to the audience, no post-modern take on events, no cynical asides. It’s actually refreshing to see a fairy tale be told straight and feel sincere instead of feeling like everyone is making fun of the story. The beginning starts off rather slow as we meet Ella’s nauseatingly happy parent. But as soon as tragedy strikes the film soon picks up.
It helps that the film is handsomely made by Kenneth Branagh and the film looks lovely on every level. The costumes, in particular the ones worn by Blanchett are gorgeous. Branagh has also cast the film well with Blanchett stealing most of the scenes as the evil Stepmother. Her daughters also provide great comic relief with their hideous personality and fashion sense. Branagh also has a likeable Ella in Lily James. James’ Ella is kind, likeable and amusingly odd in places-such as when she speaks to animals as though they can understand each other. Ok Fairy Tales aren’t known for their great Feminism values but Ella does gets moments where she quietly defies her stepmother and stands up for what’s right, even if it means sacrificing what she truly wants. Her romance with Madden’s “Kit”, who in this version she meets before the ball, is also rather sweet.
Yes it is ridiculous that they love each other after meeting only once, but as “Kit” later says to his father it’s no more ridiculous than him being expected to pick a bride he’s met for the first time at the ball. And no more ridiculous than a pumpkin and mice being transformed into a carriage and horses. Sometimes you just have to go with the ridiculous, and the magic of a good old fairy tale.
Rating 4/5 – a fine family fairy tale with warmth and humour