Cinderella (2015)

Review #1,149

Director:  Kenneth Branagh
Cast:  Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgard
Plot:  When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters.  Never one to give up hope, Ella's fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.

Genre:  Drama / Family / Fantasy
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Costume Design
Runtime:  112min
Rating:  PG for mild thematic elements

“I have to see her again.”

Kenneth Branagh bounces back from the so-so Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) with a solid live-action adaptation of the fairytale classic.  In recent years, he has been helming large-budgeted blockbusters, including the first Thor (2011), but it’s interesting to know that Branagh’s rise to fame came from adaptations of some of Shakespeare’s most famous texts, including Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and his epic 4-hour Hamlet (1996). 

It is with that sort of sensibility and reverence for the written word that Branagh brings to the screen his vision of the Cinderella story, based on a script by Chris Weitz (Antz, 1998; About a Boy, 2002).  Much of Cinderella is a straightforward, true-to-text account, though the filmmakers have taken slight liberties in the re-telling of the story.

Starring Lily James as the title character, the film is spot-on with the casting, which includes Cate Blanchett in a delightful performance as the cruel stepmother.  James’ performance is a mix of shy innocence and quiet determination, very rarely with a false note. 

Her costume, a stunning blue gown that she wears to the ball, is every girl’s fantasy.  Costume designer Sandy Powell and production designer Dante Ferretti deliver quite sumptuous and elegant costumes and art direction, Disney-style. 

Both have each won three Oscars, and are best known for collaborating with Martin Scorsese.  Their work here may not be groundbreaking, but they are every bit as responsible for the ‘look’ of the film as Branagh and his cinematographer. 

Accompanied by the animated short "Frozen Fever", which is more fun than memorable, Cinderella is a visual treat that exudes old-school sensibilities which turn out to be refreshing.  It's not really a modern take on an old story; rather it is a traditional take on an ageless classic with a subtle, modern touch.  That's how I would like to think of it. 

Branagh's picture won't go down as an instant contemporary classic, but there's no denying that this is a delightful and emotional movie that should satisfy most, if not all, who once upon a time read fairytales that took them to faraway lands.  This is a good opportunity to relive your childhood and remember the lesson.

Verdict:  A visual treat with solid storytelling in this live-action take of the fairy tale classic with refreshing old-school sensibilities.


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