Recently Hollywood has been obsessed with fairy tale spin offs; from Snow White and the Huntsman to Jack the Giant Slayer. The tale of Cinderella is no exception, being reinterpreted in such films as Ever After, A Cinderella Story and Into the Woods. However, Disney’s latest telling of the classic fairy tale refreshingly embraces the timeless story and characters of Cinderella, opting to stay true to the original narrative. Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh, proves that these fairy tales are classics for a reason.
Lily James plays the downtrodden orphan, Cinderella, who finds hope when she goes to the ball, with the help of her Fairy Godmother, (Helena Bonham Carter) and a little flurry of magic. There she meets her Prince (Richard Madden) but when the clock strikes twelve he is left only with a glass slipper.
However, the film does not feel stuffy or archaic due to its return to old roots. Through costume, set and production design Kenneth Branagh creates a sumptuously beautiful experience, re-energising the classic tale. From the grand scenes of the Rococo ball, to Cinderella’s envious blue gown; Cinderella is visually stunning. Special praise must be given to Sandy Powell whose costume designs will be the envy of little girls everywhere, in particular Cinderella’s wedding gown, which on its own is worth going to see the film for.
There was a fear that the character of Cinderella as played by Lily James would be too sickeningly sweet but she succeeds in playing a grounded and relatable character. She also creates a believable relationship with Richard Madden, who could be accused of being a little bland at times. This believable romantic relationship is an impressive accomplishment seeing as the star-crossed lovers only meet twice. Cinderella hosts an impressive cast. However, Kate Blanchett commands the most attention as the evil stepmother, winning every scene with her wonderfully villainous performance.
Cinderella is a simple tale of good versus evil, of overcoming adversity, and the power of benevolence. It is a tale that has fascinated Hollywood since its beginning. However, Kenneth Branagh’s telling will be one to remember. The film will not be for everyone. It is unashamedly cheesy at times, but for a Disney film you can expect no less.
Photograph: Disney/Annie Liebovitz