Release Date: March 13, 2015
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Chris Weitz
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Nonso Anozie, Stellan Skarsgard, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Jana Perez, Alex Macqueen, Tom Edden, Gareth Mason, Paul Hunter
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 112 Minutes
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures, Allison Shearmur Productions, Beagle Pug Films, Genre Films
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family
So Disney has decided to go far back into the past and adapt their popular animated classics into live action features. Alice in Wonderland had mixed reviews, Maleficent was not critically acclaimed, but it seems Disney has found its footing with its latest feature, Cinderella. That goes to show the hard work put into the script, as well as that of the titular character played by Lily James, who owns the role entirely. She was born to play this character and it shows.
Cinderella is backed by a great cast, and this type of recipe will always turn out great—especially with the great direction of Kenneth Branagh. If Disney’s quest to adapt animated properties into live action films follows this formula, we’re all in for great entertainment for many decades to come.
Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, and if not, it’s an easy one to follow. Just imagine the sweetest of little girls mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters, then locked in a room to perish. You already feel sorry for the protagonist. Without knowing the story, you automatically buy the world you’re in—a world full of magic, wonder, and excitement.
From the first frame, you’re immersed within the beautiful landscape of the countryside and drawn in to discover what adventures lie ahead. Credit goes to Mr. Branagh for the mood he’s set from behind the camera. In addition to his spectacular world-building, he has treated Cinderella (Lily James) as a real character, not just a fictitious one. He concentrates on the relationship Cinderella had with her father. This is a version of the story I wasn’t too familiar with but am thankful for in regard to character development. I cringed harder in my seat when the relationship that was built beautifully went awry for our princess and her hero, her father.
The story convinced me enough, but the performance of Lily James took it to another level. This isn’t Oscar caliber by far, but for a story aimed at children, it did all that was necessary, and a bit more. Though Lily James didn’t give the only great performance. The whole cast was phenomenal, and special mention goes to Cate Blanchett. She’s great in everything she does, which is a given by now, but in Cinderella, her performance deserves special recognition. Those fierce piercing eyes no wants to witness speak volumes of fear and discomfort. With her grace, no dialogue is needed to convey an evil stepmother. So Blanchett and James squaring each other off on screen does constitute a worthy battle of good and evil.
Earlier, I mentioned the story and how the beginning focused on the relationship of Cinderella with her father. Shortly after, the story took a bit of a dip in pace. The story is familiar and has been told over again thousands of times, but I still don’t want it brushed over as an afterthought. Some of the key emotional moments that stood out in the past half century were forgotten. Moments where Cinderella knew her father wasn’t returning, the realization of her life with her new guardians, or the priceless joy of going to the ball wearing her mother’s dress then ripped from her body were all fast-tracked.
In the classic story, all these moments, and more, were pivotal. They showed you how evil and malicious the stepmothers and her daughters could be, with no remorse, but also made you sympathize with Cinderella, cheering her on to overcome and succeed. This time around, it happened so fast without conscious that you go like, “Oh! She’ll get over it.”
Also, not every star can shine as bright, and in this case, I mean the fairy godmother. In a mystical and magical world, the character didn’t feel out of place, but the acting did. That was the only aspect that stuck out like a sore thumb in a world set up so beautifully.
The world that was set up was full of color and delight. You couldn’t help but feel enchanted. I noticed that there were no songs throughout, but it was still handled with good care. The wonder and the magic felt remarkable, and it brought out the little kid in me. I wanted to jump around with all the animals, big and small. This goes to show no matter what the material, you can always cater to the majority of the audience regardless of age.
A great story is a great story. It just takes a little fine-tuning to appease the audience. Director Kenneth Branagh did just that with Cinderella. This is a work he should be—and I’m sure is—proud of.
I imagine if I had kids of my own and they asked me to show them the story of Cinderella, what a puzzle that would be. I would have a hard time deciding between the animated or the live action version, and in my opinion, that speaks volumes of the quality of this movie.