Live action retelling of the animated classic by director Kenneth Branagh. Starring Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter.
A lavish spectacle, both moving and romantic and- dare I say- trite. I almost loved this beautiful retelling of the Cinderella story, but it fell a little short in the dialogue department. Where it lies faultless is in the masterful costuming and cinematography characteristic of all Branagh’s productions.
I had to laugh when I realized who the fairy godmother was. I wondered why she had such odd, dark eye make-up, but of course, it was Bonham Carter, of whom dark eyes and elongated eyelashes are also a trademark. She couldn’t give them up, even to play the fairy godmother? Oh well. In her own, eccentric way, she suited the role well.
Most surprising, bordering on disturbing, was the transformation of creatures into fantastical humans, but my children managed all right (I was a little worried for my 4yo). More sinister- perhaps because she is played by a real person- was the inexplicable meanness, bordering on torture, exhibited by the film’s calculating stepmother, played excellently by Blanchett. Her pure and unmitigated hatred and manipulation of Cinderella was difficult to understand for my youngest daughter (and for me), and they never gave a convincing explanation for it.
As for romance, there is an ample amount, with longing stares and pithy exchanges, impossibly blue eyes, and the grief of loss. Loss weighs heavily on this movie, in a way the original never even touched on. Ever in Cinderella’s mind is her love for her mother and father and the happy home they once had (all of which is prefaced in the movie). It is part of the overshadowing of Blanchett’s character, steeped in her own loss and jealousy of Cinderella. Branagh captured this masterfully.
However, I just couldn’t abide the repetitive phrases meant to connect the characters. It made them sound banal, bordering on annoying. Most enjoyable for me were the supporting characters: the king, the guard, even the stepsisters. I struggled to find any real fondness for Cinderella herself, although her prince was nominally appealing.
My boys, ages 9-12, were not impressed, and my girls, ages 4 and 7, enjoyed it while we watched, but seemed to have forgotten it by the next day. One marker of a hit is that they continue to quote lines, sing songs, re-enact, and otherwise imagine a movie long after it has ended. There was none of that with this Cinderella.
In the end, I can only give a mild recommendation, more for the effects than the content, which adults would appreciate more than children.