Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cinderella: Movie Review

Sticking to the story, highlighting the magic and the romance.

The film's tenacity in sticking to the original fairy tale is an unneeded crutch and they would have been served better by kicking it to the side and coming up with a fresh spin on the old story. At times, it plays like an uninspired adaptation, but the glory in the Grimms' fairy tale is that Cinderella is a unversally enjoyable story. The simplicity in the story allows each element to be imagined and brought to life and lessons imparted that include just being yourself and being kind. 2015

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Screenplay by: Chris Weitz

Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett
and Richard Madden

The structure of the story suits the film well because even though it starts off lacklustre and dull both visually and in substance, each turn in the story is a welcome addition to the film.

When Ella's – her name is Ella but she is later nicknamed Cinderella due to cinder ashes on her face – when Ella's father marries the new Stepmother, we are introduced to Cate Blanchett and in turn Sandy Powell the film's costume designer who gives the evil stepmother her vividly striking and prosperity-alluding green gowns. Green is often used as a color to denote wealth which is all that the stepmother aspires to be.

Later Ella is banished to the attic, but director Kenneth Branagh showed off his framing skills and the gracefulness of lead actress Lily James. Branagh always knew where to place James on the screen to evoke Cinderella's current state of being. And when Cinderella was on her own, she needed to entertain herself, and this Ella always seemed to be able to do that. Luckily the scenes would be kept short enough because as we all know mice can't sing or talk but only squeak which gets annoying after awhile.

The next element in the story is Cinderella meeting the Prince. As he says himself, he's just a prince, not the prince, but Richard Madden really livens the whole affair up, and as far as I'm concerned he's the prince. Madden was wonderfully charming and completely irresistible as the traditional Prince Charming who's love for Cinderella is enough to forego the conservative values of the royal kingdom. He reminds me of a young James McAvoy who also played a prince charming-type character in Penelope (2006). One can hope that Madden's future career will follow a similar trajectory.

The use of a narrator was a little disturbing; do they really think that we couldn't follow the story without somebody telling us what was happening? The narration really didn't add anything; with no humour it was just a factual re-telling of the fairy tale. But then Helena Bonham-Carter is revealed as the Fairy Godmother and magic is added to the film desperately giving it the visual flourishes hinted at in the trailer.

Cinderella's glass slippers, a pumpkin carriage, mice becoming horses (and a goose becoming a man), and her beautiful blue gown all magically making her a princess until the clock strikes 12, and then especially the undoing of all of the above, were some of the most entertaining scenes in the movie. Beautifully illustrated with a musical score that really added to Cinderella's magical night.

The other traditional elements of the fairy tale, like Cinderella's cruel step-sisters, Cinderella's treatment as a servant, Cinderella's connection to the animal kingdom, and the background to Cinderella's and the Prince's parents were only there because the story dictates it and they didn't add humour or anything else to the story. A film that took more risks would have been more interesting.

But as a romantic fairy tale, Cinderella delivers because both James's Ella and Madden's Prince Charming are inspiring people with great chemistry. Disney also knows how to keep the film looking beautiful. Not as impressive as Frozen or some of their more recent outings, but the kingdom was photographed well. It suits the simple story.

Similar Titles:

Frozen (2013) - A winter wonderland of magical mystique.

Mirror Mirror (2012) - Visually inspiring a new generation of princesses.