Movie Review - Cinderella (2015)

Lily James (left) and Cate Blanchett
in 'Cinderella' (2015)
I'm aware that this is an adaptation of a fairy tale and magic is a crucial focal point, but the way Kenneth Branaugh directs this piece, it could almost be mistaken as a straightforward, genuine, British period drama about royalty like The Other Boleyn Girl or Pride & Prejudice. Branaugh does such a good job that I wish that the movie stayed on that straightforward track. Branaugh has done Shakespeare, which has had its supernatural elements, but those elements here, namely the fairy godmother feels so out of place. It's ultimately so inconsequential that it could have been taken out and writer Chris Weitz could have penned his way around it. In fact, I would have preferred this movie not to have the magic.

Lily James (Downton Abbey) does a star turn in more ways than one as Cinderella, the young girl who was raised very well but lost her mother. Her father remarried and then he died leaving her penniless and the servant of her wicked stepmother and naughty two stepsisters. Cinderella is treated horribly, but she stays and suffers through it. She remains kind. She's asked why does she stay and she answers because she's too connected to her childhood home.

Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) co-stars as Kit, the handsome prince who meets Cinderella in the woods and falls for her due to her kindness and compassion. He wants to be with her despite his father's insistence that he only wed a princess. He wants to honor and respect his father, but he also wants to follow his heart.

Kit doesn't get to know her name, so he invites all women to a ball ostensibly staged to find him a bride. Cinderella wants to go, but her stepmother forbids her. This is where the magical, fairy godmother, played by Helena Bonham Carter, enters. Her powers allow Cinderella to go to the ball and convincingly pretend to be a princess, if only for one night, before the clock strikes midnight.

When I say I would have preferred this movie not to have the magic, it's this aspect I would have removed or changed. I like Carter as the fairy, but, prior to that scene, Cinderella shows an ability to make a dress and do other things. It would have given Cinderella a lot more agency, if she did it all herself without magic. If she managed to get into the ball without magic but due to her own ingenuity, that would have propelled her as a character, making her less of a passive participant.

Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett plays the stepmother and she's wickedly funny. Her cruel lines of dialogue to Cinderella were delivered extremely well. Other lines from her are delivered self-same. When the Grand Duke, played by Stellan SkarsgÄrd, asks her, "Are you threatening me?" and the stepmother replies matter-of-factly, "Yes," I was tickled into laughter. Other than that though, everything is pretty basic and not all that outstanding. It's classic, Disney fairy tale.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for mild thematic elements.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.

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