Running time: 113 minutes
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Disney is wasting no time adapting their most beloved fairy tales into live-action films and the talent involved both in front and behind the camera is stellar. First it was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, last year Maleficent and with Beauty and the Beast, which will star Emma Watson, Dumbo and Mulan on the horizon, it’s time for Cinderella to make it into the big screen.
After her father dies, Ella (Lily James) is forced to live with her stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and step sisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) who make fun of her and never treat her as part of their family. Soon, Ella becomes a servant in her own house but never loses her pure heart and good will. After meeting a dashing stranger (Richard Madden) in the woods and with the help of her fairy godmother (Helena Bohan Carter), Cinderella attends a ball at the palace that will give her the opportunity to change her life forever.
As Disney has evolved through the years, the role of the princesses has done the same. Released in 1950 and being the second Disney Princess after Snow White, the classic Cinderella was in the early stages of this evolution, so she was still pretty much a one-note character that needed the Prince to save her from the horrible stepmother, and like in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves the role of the Prince was underdeveloped, not even having a name. Now, 65 years later, when Disney Princesses have stopped being damsels in distress and have become adventurers, brave and the ones in charge of their own future and happiness, and with the live-action adaptations changing the stories to turn then into heroines, Disney’s remake of Cinderella finds a beautiful balance between maintaining the original story that is so close to everyone’s hearts and making Cinderella a stronger character as well as giving more depth to the Prince.
Lily James was such a perfect casting choice for Ella. Incredibly likable in the role, she has that iconic sweet, kind and naive look of Cinderella but brings more personality to the character and, though not too many times, has the courage to stand up for herself. Now, while in the animated version the mice are adorable and probably the most remembered characters of the film, here seeing Ella talking to them and serving them dinner was a bit weird at first. But instead of pulling me out of the movie, it was kind of fun and you can actually understand what they are squeaking some of the times.
The chemistry between Ella and the Prince is wonderful from their very first encounter. I loved that they changed it from the animated version and Kit doesn’t fall in love with her when she is all dressed-up and pretty for the ball, but when they run to each other in the woods and she is wearing her maid clothes. Also, let it be said that Richard Madden makes an excellent prince. One of the changes in the story that I liked the most was how much we got to know his character. As I said, in the first Disney movies the Prince was there to take the Princess away from her misery but it wasn’t until Sleeping Beauty that he had a name or something to do in the story. Through his friendship with the Captain of the Guards, and especially the relation with his father we finally get to see Prince Charming being something more than just charming and becoming an actual person with fears, doubts and emotions.
And though the two leads are excellent, Cinderella wouldn’t have been the same without the amazing supporting cast that also does a great job at embodying the original characters, still making them different and unique. Helena Bohan Carter puts an interesting spin on the role of the fairy godmother. Like in the animated version she’s just in one scene but really makes an impact and contributes to make that sequence unforgettable. Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger as the step sisters, Drizella and Anastasia have great dynamic together. They can be a bit cartoonish and annoying but that only adds to the fun of the characters.
But amongst all these fantastic actors the one who, without a doubt, steals the movie in every scene she is in, is Cate Blanchett in the role of the wicked stepmother. That icy, malicious look and the elegant way she carries herself through the film is really mesmerizing. We get to see shades to why she is as evil as she is but not trying to redeem her. Something I would have love to see done in Maleficent instead of that twist that completely ruined a lot of people’s favourite villain, despite being Angelina Jolie the perfect person to play Maleficent.
And not in many movies does the talent behind the camera shine the way it does here. Director Kenneth Branagh makes it visually stunning. The movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The attention to detail, the splash of color, especially in the ball sequence, which is breath-taking. Everything is so stylish, from start to finish, including those dresses and hats Cate Blanchett gets to wear that look like they belong in the cover of some fashion magazine. My one complain would be that I would have loved to hear some songs from the animated version.
Of course some more flaws can be found but for what it is, a re-adaptacion of a beloved classic fairy tale, it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It’s enchanting, pure Disney magic, it keeps very close to the original story and I had a smile on my face for its entirety. Cinderella can only be described as a delightful experience.