Monday, 31 August 2015

Cinderella

The first movie I ever saw in the cinema was Beauty and the Beast, the 1991 Disney classic. I was 6 at the time, and though a lot of memories from way back then have become clouded over time, that first viewing of Beauty and the Beast is forever burnt into my brain. So it goes without saying that I have a great love for Disney. That said, after the period known as the “Disney Renaissance” (1989-1999), there weren't many Disney projects that grabbed me, perhaps apart from Tangled. But this latest release appeared to be Disney trying to get back to their roots, and though it's completely live-action and not animated, it has the same magic, grace and sense of wonder that Disney's best creations still seem to hold today.


Directed by the always amazing Kenneth Branagh and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Cinderella, a superb re-retelling of the classic fairy tale story. Though any adaptation will always be intrinsically based upon the original source material, this incarnation is essentially a live-action remake of the 1950 Disney animated film of the same name. Chances are you probably know the story inside out, but Cinderella centres around the life of Ella, a kind hearted girl who, after her mother dies, eventually finds herself living with her step-family. Her father married a new woman, and after Ella's father passes away (I know, she has terrible luck!), her new step-mother and step-sisters turn on her. Forcing her to do menial tasks throughout the house and wait on them hand and foot, Ella lives a life of sadness. That is until, after getting out of the house for a few hours, she meets a dashing prince. This all accumulates with the widely known story of Cinderella. From the fairy godmother, the magic, the mice, the ball and the shoe that fits... it's all here.


In recent years we've seen various films take fairy tales and twist them into something dark, grim and ultimately for a more “mature audience”. From Hansel and Gretal: Witch Hunters, Jack the Giant Killer to Snow White and the Huntsman, it seems like no one is content on presenting a fairy tale the way Disney did back in the day. Cinderella gets back to basics, and creates a heart warming, pleasant and lovely tale. The best part about Cinderella are its visuals. Though CGI is used at various points during the film, there isn't an over abundance of it. Outside of a number of exterior shots and of course the scenes in which magic is used by the fairy godmother, Cinderella looks and feels very grounded. What's even better is, especially compared to more recent “mature” takes on fairy tales, Cinderella is very colourful and lavishly designed. From the set of the iconic ballroom, the beautiful costumes used throughout the film to the overall feel of the world, Cinderella looks incredible. Though it could have gone down the route of an overuse of CGI, the film makers have clearly realised that less is more.

However, a film is nothing without a strong backbone of actors, and thankfully that's another area in which Cinderella excels. From names like Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Derek Jacobi and Helena Bonham Carter, Cinderella's cast is genuinely impressive both in terms of drama and comedy. There are a few stand out performances, but Cate Blanchett and Lily James steal the show, playing Lady Tremaine and Ella respectively. I never thought I'd see Cate Blanchett play such a hateful, sour and bitchy character so well (considering she's Galadriel!), but here she's absolutely brilliant. The same goes for Lily James, and she plays Ella through an entire spectrum of emotions. From elating joys to crushing loneliness, James throws herself into the role which could have been mishandled so easily. Like I said, everyone is pretty great, and with the visuals backing them up, the performances here across the board are impressive.


Overall Cinderella is a very lovely film. Chances are you already know how it ends, but it's a brand new vision of a previously travelled journey. There's some new and old here, but one thing that remains is its heart. It's a worthy adaptation/remake and one that you'll walk away from with a smile on your face. Lovely.

Cinderella nicely fits a 5/5.

★★★★★

Denis Murphy
Cinderella at CeX


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