Saturday, 28 March 2015

Film Review: Cinderella

Cinderella is a live-action reimagining of the classic Disney fairytale. It sees Lily James don the iconic glass slippers as the titular downtrodden farm girl, Cate Blanchett as her evil stepmother and Richard Madden as the handsome prince.

I'd start this review by summarising the plot of Cinderella but, let's be honest - why bother? You all know it - simple farm girl, evil stepmum and sisters that aren't very nice, magical fairy godmother, dashing prince, stroke of midnight, fitting the glass slipper. It's a tale that's been told and retold umpteen times over the years.

Instead, I'll go into a bit of detail about how this adaptation sets itself apart from the herd. What does it do differently? Well, not an awful lot to be brutally honest. If you're hoping for a edgy rework akin to Maleficent, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for a classic story spun a modern way, you'll be disappointed. Hell, if you're expecting a musical, you'll be disappointed.

2015's Cinderella is more or less the story you can recite in your head without hesitation. It only deviates from the well-trodden format on a couple of occasions - for example, we spend an extended stretch of the first half with Ella's parents (Hayley Atwell and Ben Chaplin) to provide them with depth and backstory. It's a worthwhile addition as it means the classic story take time to establish itself.

However, other than that, this is Cinderella exactly as you remember it, right down to details like the pumpkin carriage to the lizard footmen. And this goes for the characterisation as well - the roles are very traditional and, if you want to look at it this way, outdated. After all, this is a fairytale about a sweet servant girl who gets showered with everything she needs and swept off her feet by a prince. There's not much going on that screams contemporary which will no doubt irk some people who're hoping for something a little edgier.

But to be fair, director Kenneth Branagh milks the story for all it's worth. When a film is executed this effectively, it's hard to dislike the work and attention he puts into it. The camerawork and framing are great in this film and it really draws you in to the magical and enchanting story - Branagh is in his element as he pulls the camera around the take in the full extent of the lavish ballgowns, ornate decor and rich colours.

In terms of acting talent, Cinderella is a slightly mixed bag. Cate Blanchett looks like she's having a lot of fun as the evil stepmother whilst her two daughters are grating from the get-go. Lily James is good as Ella - she's sweet, pretty and slots into the fairytale setting well. Richard Madden is good too, if a little bland as the Prince.

Helena Bonham Carter is essentially the same in each of her roles and she's no different here. Plus, there's a really odd scene where someone instructed Rob Brydon to just pretend to be a painter as if he was just on set and thought it would be a good laugh.

The CGI work hasn't been a strongpoint of these new Disney fairytales and the trend continues here. The sequence where Fairy Godmother transforms Ella into a princess looks awful - it's striving to be all wondrous and magical but the VFX are really obvious and just look cheap. The film looked best when it relied upon physical elements like the intricate set design and lavish costumes.

The Verdict: 6/10

2015's Cinderella is sweet, sugary and simplistic - it gets the job done but doesn't leave a lasting impression. James and Madden make for a good pairing whilst Cate Blanchett seethes and almost steals the show. However, the real belle of the ball is Kenneth Branagh's enchanting direction.

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