Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. Allison Shearmur Productions, Beagle Pug Films, Genre Films, Walt Disney Pictures. USA, 2015. Screenplay by Chris Weitz. Cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos. Produced by David Barron, Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur. Music by Patrick Doyle. Production Design by Dante Ferretti. Costume Design by Sandy Powell. Film Editing by Martin Walsh. Academy Awards 2015.
If you thought you didn’t need another Cinderella movie, you were right, but that doesn’t mean this one isn’t fully enjoyable. Coming on a recent trend of animated Disney films translated into live action, Kenneth Branagh’s fantasy romance is a straight adaptation and not the revisionism of Maleficent, telling the story in pretty much the same manner as the animated film and not from an alternate point of view. Lily James is lovely as the young girl whose adoring father (Ben Chaplin) dies and leaves her at the mercy of her cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and selfish stepsisters (Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera). They turn her into a servant in her own house, but after meeting a handsome young man (Richard Madden) in the woods whom she has no idea is the prince of the land, Cinderella sets forth upon the road to true love that culminates in the well-known night at the ball complete with a forlorn glass slipper. An added bump to the plot in the last third, in which the stepmother tries to get involved in some political intrigue, gives the fabulous Blanchett a little more to do without taking away from the main expectation of the fairy-tale narrative, and is all the more welcome for showing off the astounding actress in the role; now having a number of films and stage appearances under her belt, Blanchett can barely cast a sideward glance without injecting razor-sharp energy into a scene, particularly in a role that dresses her like Joan Crawford (Sandy Powell once again in top form) and has her preening about like Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express. She outshines her co-stars but only because she is the sole character given more than one personal attribute; the entire cast performs ably (including a hilarious Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother) and Branagh moves the plot along in an efficient and charming manner. As previously stated, however, if you already have a version of this story in your heart (I’m partial to Demy’s Donkey Skin, myself), it won’t rewrite the book, and I don’t see why it needs to be so long, and many of its elaborate emotional justifications for plot points don’t quite fly, and in live-action the interactions with rodents seem quite dangerous to people’s health, but it’s fun and you won’t regret it.