With the recent trend of fairy tale revivals where the old versions are given new angles so as to supposedly ‘refresh’ them (see ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ as examples), Kenneth Branagh’s more straight-edged reincarnation of Cinderella’s famous tale could be seen as either brave, for bucking the trend of re-imagination, or simply too easy. Luckily, Branagh’s prowess as a director means that where the film could have been plodding and boring, he laces it with enough nuance and skill that it’s entertaining and charming viewing, even if it is nothing particularly special.
Lily James plays the titular lead character and has most likely ignited her cinematic career with this film. Found by Kenneth Branagh on the small screen playing Lady Rose MacClare in popular TV show ‘Downton Abbey’, James falls in to the role very well, embodying the ethereal beauty of the original fairy tale while also bringing character to the role, even if it would have been easy to rest on her laurels and go through the motions since Branagh has made sure that her costume and makeup are perfect, styled and analysed down to the minutest detail to make sure she looks the part. She definitely acts the part too though, which is always necessary for elevating a drab fairy tale adaptation in to an enjoyable one. Other solid turns come from Helena Bonham Carter as the famous fairy godmother, and Cate Blanchett, whose cold, considered performance as Cinderella’s step-mother is probably the best in the film. Richard Madden is a likeable and interesting Prince too, showing his acting chops outside of the mega-hit TV show ‘Game of Thrones’, and proving that he has what it takes to be a star on the silver screen too.
Despite all the nice things said here, it is still the case that while ‘Cinderella’ is a strongly directed, well acted and well mounted film, it’s nothing beyond an enjoyable couple of hours, and while it will definitely do very well with its target audience, it’s an example of a film that just isn’t quite memorable enough to be great, but is well made and thought out enough to be enough for a pretty good time at the cinema. That in itself is a job well done though for a director and actor whose body of work is something to be admired and reckoned with, and whose increasing desire to try new fields, having helmed ‘Thor’ a few years ago, is refreshing to see.
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