In this new take on the classic fairy tale, Cinderella (Lily James) always tries to ‘have courage, and be kind’, as per her mother’s dying wish, but never has kindness shown to her by her wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her stepsisters. Cinderella gets her moment for joy, however, when she meets her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter).
Cinderella is the latest Disney classic to be reimagined as a live action film, and with Kenneth Brannagh at the helm and a strong cast, Cinderella is lovely and warm, but falls a little flat at times.
Lily James not only looks the part as Cinderella, but carries the character’s charm and grace throughout the film. James ably makes the character loveable, and although most of us know the ending of the film, it is still a pleasure to go on this journey with James. Cate Blanchett is on spectacularly nefarious form as Cinderella’s stepmother, and is the perfect villainous foil to James’ sweet Cinderella. Blanchett also reminds audiences of the gleeful wickedness of Disney villains, and carries the role with aplomb. Helena Bonham Carter takes a break from playing in the darker side of human emotion as Cinderella’s fairy godmother and has fun with the bright, cheerful and simply delightful character. Elsewhere, Derek Jacobi plays the ailing King, Stellan Skarsgaard reteams with Brannagh (after Thor) as the Grand Duke and Richard Madden plays the earnest Prince (Charming).
Chris Weitz’s screenplay starts at the very beginning of Cinderella’s story, giving the audience a true feel for the character and her generous spirit. The dialogue is strong and slightly silly at times, which works well with the slapstick coming from other areas of the film. There are some elements of the film that work slightly better than others – the strangely tame mice never seem to work – but the connection between Cinderella and the Prince feels honest, as does the scheming that goes on behind their backs.
Kenneth Brannagh directs well, allowing the film to feel both familiar and brand new. The pacing is fine for the most part, but there are times when scenes linger, which draws the film out as a whole. As well as this, some of the more comedic moments don’t always sit well with the tone of the film, meaning they jar and feel slightly awkward. That said, Brannagh makes the kingdom and the people feel real and relatable, but seemed to have slightly more fun with the wicked characters than he did with the charming ones.
The look of the film is beautiful, with Haris Zambarloukos’ cinematography capturing the opulence of the palace and contrasting it with the shabby chic charm of Cinderella’s home. Sandy Powell’s costumes are joyful, with Cinderella’s ballgown a standout.
In all, Cinderella succeeds in making and old tale new, and looking very very good on screen. Blanchett and Bonham Carter shine, with James ably carrying the film on her shoulders. That said, there are times when things get a little silly and fall a little flat, and some speedier pacing would have been welcome.