Ella (Lily James) is a young girl who loses her mother at a very early age, and years later also loses her father leaving her at the mercy of her cruel step mother (Cate Blanchett). However he fortunes begin to change when she meets a handsome and mysterious stranger in the woods one day.
Before we start on Cinderella, let’s just mention Frozen Fever – the short Frozen spin-off movie that precedes Cinderella – in which the creators attempt to cram as much stuff as physically possible in five minutes. It’s a brilliant little song and story about Anna’s birthday and Elsa’s attempts to make it the most perfect day. Although I do feel sorry for Cinderella because following this everyone (me included) will just be thinking about how incredible Frozen was. So does Cinderella manage to move out of the psychological shadow this five minute Frozen short creates? Sort of.
First of all I should mention that never in my life have I seen such a genuinely sincere movie. It’s almost as if the very film’s personality mirrors that of its protagonist. While most fairy tale adaptations nowadays seem to have some sort of modern day twist, or a large element of tongue in cheek – Shrek, Enchanted – it’s pretty strange to come across a film so conventional. And this over the top sincerity can be a little unsettling if you aren’t expecting it.
There is much to be loved about Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella. It is visually breath-taking and I would highly recommend seeing it in the biggest screen you can find. Whether it be the outrageously gorgeous scenery or the sweeping shots of the ball, it is always completely dazzling to look at. The performances are universally decent. Cate Blanchett is fantastic as the evil step mother, with Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger clearly having a whale of a time with the stepsister roles. And actually it would appear that it is the supporting cast that really stand out from the film. The characters you will remember are Helena Bonham Carter’s fairy godmother, Derek Jacobi’s King and even Alex Macqueen’s town crier. While the two lead performances are sturdy enough, they aren’t nearly as standout. This may be down to the weight of the fairy tale, or just the not especially standout nature of the script.
It does have flaws. Cinderella’s constant chirpy super sugary and sweet nature can get grating. And while the sweeping shots of forestry and cliff edges will catch your eye, you can’t help but feel it’s just a ploy to draw away from the central un-remarkableness of the film. That’s not to say it’s ever bad, but sometimes it’s just fine and not much more. As to the controversy surrounding Cinderella’s waist, you can see why it arose because she really is extremely skinny. I don’t know whether this is her natural shape, or if cgi is used or a diet was in place, but I guess we’ll just have to hope it is her natural shape.
Overall, this is definitely worth a cinema trip, because whatever your view of the actual Cinderella story it is a cinematic experience. I don’t think it will last much longer than the cinema trip like Frozen did. But it is enjoyable while you are there.