by E. Ladd
A gorgeous, sumptuous retelling of the old Cinderella classic fairy tale is what you’re getting with the newest Disney live action version of Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh, and out in theaters on March 13th. Branagh, actor, director, producer, and screenwriter, is best known for Dead Again, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and his film adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, which include Academy Award nominations as best actor and director for 1989’s Henry V and Adapted Screenplay for 1996’s Hamlet. In other words, this guy is quite adept at his craft. And he does not fail to deliver with his newest film.
You might think, oh bah!, another Cinderella story? Hasn’t this been redone so many times? And, yes, it has. But this one is lovely. From the beginning sweeping shots of Cinderella’s bucolic home estate to the ending scenes of a castle so majestic and full of grandeur that most fairy tale films never seem to capture, the cinematography is impeccable. And the actors are even better. There’s Lily James who plays Cinderella (best known as Lady Rose MacClare from Downton Abbey), James Madden as Kit, the Prince (oh, yes, Robb Stark from Game of Thrones, we have missed you), and a bevy of Oscar winners/nominees such as Cate Blanchett as Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Helena Bonham Carter as narrator and Cinderella’s fairy godmother, Derek Jacobi as the King, and Stellan Skarsgard as the Grand Duke.
The story itself doesn’t derive much from the Disney animated classic, but when it does it gives insight to characters who were not previously fleshed out. For example, when Cate Blanchett’s stepmother overhears a heartfelt conversation between Cinderella and her father, the feelings of jealousy and disappointment are achingly tangible. I should also point out that Ms. Blanchett has never been better. Or looked better. Costume design and set design are fantastic. When Cinderella makes her entrance at the castle, after arriving in the most exquisite golden coach, it almost takes your breath away. And then she dances with the Prince in a gown that, although reminiscent of the animated Disney version, is so full of glitter and gossamer, that I can almost hear the ka-ching of Walmart cash registers this upcoming Halloween, because millions of little girls will want a store bought version.
This is what fairy tale magic moviemaking is supposed to be. Sure, there are few cheeseball and cliché moments. It’s a Disney film, after all. But there are heartwarming scenes and funny lines, too. And although the “Have courage, be kind” mantra gets a little overplayed, I walked away feeling a bit enchanted by the beauty of it.
Watch the trailer for Cinderella
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