The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Cinderella | Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Madden, Derek Jacobi, Stellan Skarsgard, Nonso Anozie | Review

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5sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT Judy Thorburn

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5lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT

 

Cinderella

I've always had the mindset that if it isn't broke, don't fix it. So it seemed risky for Disney to offer up a remake with a new spin on their 1950 animated classic Cinderella, by way of a new live action version. After all, no one wants to see any one mess with one of the most beloved fairy tales off all time. Yet, with the basic Cinderella story intact, there is much to like as director Kenneth Branagh, working from Chris Weitz's screenplay, and the wonderful cast and entire amazing creative team, inject new spark, dimension, and a bit of a twist into the old favorite that audiences of all ages will find appealing.

Cinderella's wicked stepmother and stepsisters, her Fairy Godmother, a handsome prince, the grand ball, magical carriage and glass slipper are all an integral part of the fairy tale.  But, in this retelling there is so much more to this simple, but engaging story. To begin with, a back story that has never been told before, lends insight into what makes the young maiden tick. In addition, there are a few new characters, such as the Captain of the Guard (Nonso Anozie), a black man who acts as the Prince's wise confidante, and the not to be trusted Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgard), the advisor to the benevolent, dying King (Derek Jacobi). In this updated, politically correct retelling of Cinderella, the magic kingdom is indeed integrated with people of all races.

As for the main character, Downton Abby's Lily James is absolutely radiant and irresistible as the sweet tempered Ella (later dubbed Cinder-ella by her stepsister, because of the ash left on her face by sleeping alongside the fireplace). Raised in a happy home by loving parents, the untimely, sudden death of Ella's mother (Hayley Atwell) finds her merchant father (Ben Chaplin) seeking another chance at happiness by marrying a widow, in the form of the scheming, self serving Lady Tremain (a deliciously evil Cate Blanchett). After he passes away during one of his trips abroad, an orphaned Ella is left with the burden of living with her cold hearted, evil stepmother and no good stepsisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) that treat her like a servant and are intent on making her life miserable.

Rather than being bitter, Cinderella would stay true to the words of wisdom, “Have courage and be kind, and all will be well”,  that her dying mother told her and would forever be ingrained in Cinderella's heart and soul. Meanwhile, the evil stepmother's cruelty and resentment towards Cinderella stems from her own unfortunate history of being widowed twice and raising two idiotic daughters, not that it is any excuse for mean behavior.

Cinderella first encounters the handsome Prince (a dashing, piercing blue eyed, Richard Madden, Game of Thrones) while temporarily escaping on horseback into the forest.  The Prince, who calls himself Kit, is on a hunt for a stag, but she convinces him not to kill the creature and he is immediately smitten by her good heartedness, not to mention her beauty. She has no idea that he is royalty and mistakes him for a palace apprentice, but, of course, forms a mutual attraction. After the two part, as we all know, it isn't until she shows up at the royal ball, aimed at attracting an eligible “princess” for the prince to marry, that the couple meet again.

Forbidden to go and left alone after her stepmother and stepsisters head to the ball, Cinderella is visited by her delightfully ditzy Fairy Godmother (Helen Bonham Carter, with fake teeth) who casts a magic spell with her wand, transforming a pumpkin into a gold filigree coach, mice into white horses, a goose into the driver, two lizards into coachmen, and servant Cinderella, into a fetching beauty adorned in a magnificent blue gown and sparkling glass slippers. With the amazing special effects wizards masterfully at work, this sequence stands out as the film's most visually eye popping and fun piece. No need to add what happens at the stroke of midnight and soon after.  If the shoe fits...well, you know the drill.

Cinderella is a dazzler any way you look at it.  Haris Zambarloukos's sweeping cinematography, Dante Ferriti's lavish production design and Sandy Powell's stunning, colorful costumes (that are sure to nab Oscar nominations next year), enhance this beautifully crafted story that ultimately sends a timeless, meaningful, wonderful message about kindness, good triumphing over evil, and forgiveness.

Kudos to Disney Studios for delivering another beautiful, enchanting film and proving they still have the magic touch.

 

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