What To Expect
Following the success of Maleficent earlier in 2014, Disney has set out to replenish the revisionist era with another of its classics retold. Entrust this in the hands of director Kenneth Branagh, better known for his direction of Marvel’s Thor, and Cinderella brings great promise.
Upon watching the trailer one would immediately know that we were (perhaps at last) being brought a cinderella story truest to the original fairytale. Which begs the question; how intriguing would this film turn out to be when we already know everything that is to unfold? And personally, that is where the filmmakers have done a remarkable job with this enchanting confection.
What’s it About?
Ten-year-old Ella (Eloise Webb) lives a heavenly life with her loving parents, until her mother (Hayley Atwell) contracts a fatal illness. On her deathbed, she reminds Ella to always “have courage, and be kind” to others.
Years later, Ella’s (Lily James) father (Ben Chaplin) reveals his desire to marry Lady Tremaine, the widow of an old acquaintance. Ella welcomes her step-mother (Cate Blanchett) and her step-sisters with warmth, in spite of their disparaging outlook.
When news of Ella’s father passing away while on his travels reaches the household, the Lady Tremaine immediately evinces her apathetic nature, reducing Ella to the ranks of a servant. Distraught, Ella one day takes a ride into the woods where she crosses paths with Kit (Richard Madden), who claims to be a mere apprentice when Ella does not realise that he is in fact the Prince of their Kingdom. Enchanted by Ella’s kindness and charm, Kit pursues his father (Derek Jacobi) to invite every maiden in the land to an upcoming ball, in hopes of seeing her again and convincing the King to permit his marriage to her. From hereon, it is very much the Cinderella story each of us has grown hearing.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
First up, Kenneth Branagh is an industry artisan. Having garnered numerous awards, Branagh is only the fourth person behind Walt Disney, Warren Beaty and George Clooney to have been nominated for Academy Awards in 5 different categories. He has a handful of successfully adapted screenplays to his name, including William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Henry V (Branagh’s directorial debut). And just when another fairy-flick was the last thing movie-goers needed, Branagh has discarded all scorn and skepticism with this captivating re-telling of Cinderella.
Pairing up with writer Chris Weitz, who last adapted author Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights into The Golden Compass, the two have dwelled into the more intricate depths of their characters, chronicling a brief background and/or backstory that does not at all drag, and further enables us to understand why a certain character has chosen a certain course of action. It can be said that Branagh and Weitz have added a more “human” touch to their fairytale characters, where either their otherwise over-the-top goodness or hyperbolic ruthlessness would simply have been clichéd, unappealing, and unoriginal. The two have struck the perfect balance in both their scenes and characters, that are simple enough to appeal to the tots, and earnest enough to be understood by the older masses. Not to mention, their comical cues are impeccably timed!
Haris Zambarloukos, previously onset with Branagh for Thor, enriches the already entrancing sets of Cinderella with his cinematography, and Academy Award winner Martin Walsh (Chicago) seamlessly knits together the seemingly short 112-minute runtime to allow enough time to absorb the film’s warmth, as Branagh’s long-time collaborator Patrick Doyle’s music further exalts the mood.
Throughout my time watching Cinderella, I had to keep nagging myself, ‘Don’t enjoy this so much! You need to keep your eye open for what may be wrong with it!‘ Funnily, all the way through to its end, I was left asking myself, ‘So, what’s wrong with it?‘ Perhaps if we were to nitpick and question the moral of the entire story, where marriage is the solution to all problems, or that beauty is of paramount importance, one may frown upon the film. But I daresay that isn’t so much the fault of the filmmakers now, is it?
To Perform or Not To Perform
Let’s be honest. EVERY one has already said it: the performances in this film are pretty awesome! Leading the way is the Acadeny Award-winning sensation Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) in her role as Lady Tremaine, the devious step-mother bent on clinching all the fame and riches she can. Blanchett subtly evinces the envy and insecuriy of Lady Tremaine, which are as much the cause of her wickedness as her malicious nature.
Lily James (Wrath of The Titans) was a very surprising pick for Cinderella, and perhaps it can be said that because she did not surprise with her actual performance, she very charmingly met the set expectations. Richard Madden from television’s Game of Thrones bodes well as a charismatic prince, hopelessly in love, still ‘learning the trades’ from his father on ruling the Kingdom.
Holliday Grainger (Jane Eyre) and Sophie McShera (television’s Downtown Abbey) pack quite a punch as the stepsisters, who – as Lady Tremaine puts it – ‘love’ each other very much, despite appearing slightly younger and shorter than one had pictured. Helena Bonham Carter’s cameo as the Fairy Godmother was endearing, and a rather bold but successful move from the makers.
Derek Jacobi as the King, Stellan Skarsgård (Breaking the Waves) as the Grand Duke, and Nonso Anozie as the Captain were all worth mentioning. Not everybody’s performances in the film has the power to move you emotionally. Despite that, however, every character in Cinderella was rather enjoyable to watch.
The verdict: YES!
This is not a Cinderella-story that will appeal only to the little girls, despite all its lavish and magical nature. Rather, this Cinderella story is one that’s sure to awaken the kind little girl in each of its viewers, hitting the spot right where it’s warmest!
Watch the trailer
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