On the Silver Screen – Cinderella
Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella gives the familiar fairytale a new live action adaptation to bring the story to a new generation of viewers.
I won’t waste time filling you in on the story because surely everyone knows it by now. This film doesn’t really take any liberties with the material and just gives viewers a straight retelling of the old fairytale.
I have to say that this is pretty refreshing as I was getting a little tired of these updates of old stories that try to add needlessly dark elements or pad it out with some kind of Lord of the Rings style army on army battle. I like the fact that this film just tells the story and lets it speak for itself.
Kenneth Branagh does a really good job of building a brightly lit magical world full of optimism and kindness. It’s a little cheesy but hey, it’s a fairytale what do you expect? I had a little trouble getting used to the tone at first but once I settled into it I was completely on board. It’s good to have a little optimism now and again and this film definitely has it in spades.
In true Disney tradition there’s plenty of magic and wonder to be seen. Everything looks great from the transformation of the pumpkin and various animals to the impressive looking castle that Cinderella will one day live in. It feels like a complete world and absorbs the viewer into it.
The titular role is played by Lily James and she does a great job of bringing this character to life. James completely nails the “butter wouldn’t melt” aspect of the character and her constant aura of kindness feels completely genuine. At some points she comes across as annoyingly naive but I think that’s a big part of what makes her who she is. She has had a very sheltered upbringing and has a really black and white view of the world. It’s established that she sees the world as it could be so that definitely makes her unaware of how the world works in a lot of ways.
It was easy to root for Cinderella in the story as she was so profoundly loveable at all times. No matter how poorly she’s treated she rises above it and always manages to be kind. She also has a deep connection to nature as shown by her instant rapport with any animal she comes into contact with.
Cate Blanchett takes on the role of the wicked stepmother and the script actually does a good job of giving her motivation to oppress Cinderella in the way she does. Her intentions are all financially driven as she wants to make sure that she and her daughters live a more than comfortable lifestyle. Her characterisation is a little thin but Blanchett does a fine job of adding a sense of depth and menace to this character.
Her daughters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) have absolutely no depth to them whatsoever. Their roles are the unfriendly -I won’t go as far as wicked- stepsisters and that’s about all they do within the story. They don’t need to do anything else within the plot but it might have been good to see something else attempted.
Richard Madden’s Prince Kit is pretty thinly written. His only defining trait is that he doesn’t want to marry for political reasons and wants to marry for love instead. His father (Derek Jacobi) is less than keen for him to do that at first. All he really does is serve as the opportunity for Cinderella to be lifted out of her situation.
Helena Bonham Carter does a capable job of playing the role she always does in her portrayal of the Fairy Godmother. She has very little screen time as it happens but her scenes are entertaining enough.
A satisfying and pleasantly optimistic experience that retells the story of Cinderella without adding unnecessary darkness or any other bells and whistles.
Kenneth Branagh’s direction is impressive and he builds a magically optimistic world full of wonder. Everything looks great from the transformation of the pumpkin and various animals to the views of the castle. The world feels vibrant and complete with impressive visual effects.]
Lily James does a great job of playing the always kind and naively optimistic Cinderella. She is completely believable in this part and comes across as loveable throughout the story. It’s easy to root for her as she’s such an engaging character.
Cate Blanchett is really good as the wicked stepmother. There’s not a lot of depth to the character but Blanchett adds a lot due to her magnetic performance.
The rest of the cast are fairly one note only filling their roles and nothing else. They aren’t especially well written but they really don’t need to be. The stepsisters and prince have a very defined role to play and do so very well here. Similarly the Fairy Godmother isn’t required to do very much so only really fulfills her part in the story.
Tonally everything was a little cheesy but I was fine with it as it is a fairytale so some suspension of disbelief is necessary.