Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Lily James, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden
Evil stepsisters, a pumpkin-turned-carriage, and a lost glass slipper? It’s a fairy tale we all know and love. While watching Disney’s latest film, Cinderella, a warm hug of nostalgia wrapped around me as I recalled my fond memories of the animated version I popped into the VHS player as a child. This live-action film followed the original Disney plot with a couple of twists. Not only is there a beautiful prologue introducing Cinderella as a cheerful child with a perfect family, but there is also some added romantic tension, where Cinderella and the prince encounter each other before the ball. Despite these modifications, the plot was evenly paced, and aside from a few uncomfortably drawn-out romantic stares, the scenes efficiently captured the essence of the classic fairy tale.
Lily James played a wonderfully polite Cinderella, but she was rather one-dimensional. She didn’t seem particularly courageous in action or wildly profound in speech — nothing that made her stand out from any other Disney princess. From the first five minutes of the film, she began to utter the film’s motto, “Have courage, and be kind,” but this phrase was stated so many times throughout the film that I wondered whether she was capable of saying anything else.
Nevertheless, the film had strong performances from Helena Bonham Carter, who played a sassy Fairy Godmother, and from Richard Madden, who played the lovable prince. Cate Blanchett stood out in her role of the fantastically evil stepmother, whose irrational hatred of Cinderella clung to every word she uttered.
The special effects team did a superb job of creating the anthropomorphic characters that assisted Cinderella throughout the story. While the talking mice were cute, the scene where Cinderella’s ragged dress transformed into a beautiful, blue ball gown was mesmerizing. The layers upon layers of fabric that flowed from the gown would make any aspiring five-year-old Disney princess shriek with jealousy.
The costuming, led by three-time Oscar-winning costume designer, Sandy Powell, not only suggested the 19th-century setting of the film, but it also accentuated the personalities of the characters. Tacky colors and patterns on the dresses of the stepsisters highlighted their superficial nature, while the bold blues and handsome silhouettes of the prince’s outfits pointed to his honorable stature.
Simply put, Cinderella is a well-executed love story. Although everyone already knows what’s going to happen, an element of romantic suspense still drives the film forward, and with its gorgeous set and costume design, the film is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the heart. I would recommend the film to everyone, no matter how many times you’ve watched Cinderella as a child.