Posted on April 1, 2015
Is there anything wrong with a little fairy-tale fantasy? Just when we thought Disney had abandoned heroes on white horses for princesses perfectly capable of saving themselves, along comes this faithful live-action version of their original Cinderella animation. Writer Chris Weitz (About A Boy) sprinkles in a few minor updates that underplay beauty in favour of being accepted for who we are.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor), it’s Downton Abbey star Lily James who takes the title role. While James offers little variation from her familiar TV guise, it seems Downton’s Rose is the perfect muse. James’ Cinderella is an endearing blend of buoyant kindness and reluctant melancholy, with enough sincere tears to sharpen the film’s sickly-sweet tone.
Cate Blanchett is the film’s biggest coup, commanding the screen like a couture model in a vintage shoot. Blanchett’s wicked step mother is bitter and cruel, with an acid tongue that acknowledges the stupidity of her own daughters but she’s far from a one dimensional villain. The glamorous veneer cracks to reveal a grieving widow forced to remarry for financial security and suffocated by the shadow of her new husband’s first wife.
Cinderella continues to hinge on a male rescue fantasy but the right scripting tweaks go a long way to rectifying the power imbalance. In the context of Disney’s varied filmography, there’s room for this straight, nostalgic re-make. It’s a solid production with comedy, sentimentality, delightful set design and costumery that reminds us not underestimate the power of a happy ending.
VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ ★ 4/5
Running time: 113 minutes
UK release date: 27 March 2015
Images: © 2015 – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Review first printed in Ashfield & Mansfield Chad