You shall Go To The Ball

Cinderella2A review of the new Disney film retelling of Cinderella.

In an extra post this week, just for once, I am reviewing a film whilst it is still showing in cinemas.

There are over 30 films based on the Cinderella story, of which I would imagine the most well known and probably liked to be the 1950 Disney cartoon classic. Of the Cinderella films I have seen that has been my favourite, until I watched the 2015 live action telling of the classic fairy tale, again from Disney’s studios.

The Story of Aschenputtel, from the collected works by the brothers Grimm, will probably be better known to most readers as Cinderella, however the original story, without the darker elements introduced by the Grimms, is by Charles Perrault, in the 17th century. Kenneth Brannagh’s direction refreshingly does not stray too far from Perraults original.

There are of course special effects employed in the film, most notably in sequences where magic is part of the tale but no liberties were taken with the story, by the director. We are given a faithful retelling of the Cinderella tale.

I am not familiar with much previous work of the films’ stars, Lilly James as Cinderella and Richard Madden as the prince. While both played their roles well, if perhaps a little wooden in Madden’s case, Lilly truly became Cinderella, for me at least. Madden’s handsome prince could easily have been overplayed, turning the character into a caricature or girls’ comic book prince, but this was avoided. There were sentimental elements in Cinderella, though fortunately was not overdone as could easily have been.

Helena Bonham Carter really made the most of her part, as Cinders’ fairy godmother, with a couple of side splitting lines that had me in stitches of laughter, as she prepared Cinderella to go to the ball. In a nod to the 1950 cartoon, we hear her utter “Bippity Boppity Boo” while undertaking Ella’s transformation;  Bonham-Carter also narrates. Experienced actor Derek Jacobi plays the king and Stellan Skarsgard the scheming grand duke, with his own plan unknown to the king, for the prince’s marriage.

Though I would like to give my opinion of the acting honours in Cinderella to Lilly James, I can’t. I must instead say that the best performance, perhaps unsurprisingly, was by Cate Blanchett, as the wicked stepmother. In the original Disney cartoon, the character might have been described as delightfully wicked. There was nothing delightful in Blanchett, or hardly even wicked but downright evil, becoming ever more overbearing in her mistreatment of Cinderella. One wonders why Ella’s father married her.

Cate’s screen daughters, whilst not truly ugly in the visual sense, nevertheless display ugly, grasping and cruel traits, making them still into thoroughly unsympathetic characters.

The scene when Cinderella does go to the ball, is simply beautiful. To try and describe it further would probably do it a disservice. I can only add that for viewers who see this scene on a television, or small screen, you will be missing a real treat. It would have been worth seeing on the cinema big screen for this scene alone.

This was a refreshingly straight telling of a classic fairy tale, though I suspect that most fans of blockbuster, violent movies and the comic book super-hero genres’ wouldn’t put Cinderella at the top of their must see list of movies. I thought it was great but perhaps I’m still just a big kid at heart.

“I’m your Hairy Dogfather… Oh! I mean, your Fairy Godmother.” :-
Helena Bonham Carter, as Ella’s fairy godmother.

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