June 1, 2014 at 10:13 am #154220
A few weeks ago the teaser trailer dropped for this movie.
Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wppM8ycod0
And it’s just a shoe that’s impossible too walk in. But, it’s a pretty shoe that’s impossible too walk in. While, the teaser gives us nothing what so ever we should the Cinderella story by now. I’m interested in this because I’m impressed with the people working on this. The film comes out March 13, 2015.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Aline Brosh McKenna & Chris Weitz
Lily James- Cinderella
Cate Blanchett- Lady Tremanie
Helena Bonham Carter- The Fairy Godmother
Richard Madden- Prince Charming
Derek Jacobi- The King
Holliday Grainger- Anatasia
Sophie McShera- Drizella
Stellan Skarsgard- Grand Duke
Hayley Atwell- Cinderella’s Mother
Ben Chaplin- Cinderella’ FatherJune 1, 2014 at 11:13 am #154222
Apparently playing fairy tale villains is the new thing for Oscar-winning actresses.
Hopefully Blanchett will be as good (or even better than) Theron and Jolie.
Oh, and Branagh is brilliant. Glad to see he’s getting consistent work again.June 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm #154223
The only thing that has me even slightly interested is the cast and crew working on it. I’m not a big fan of the original, and I don’t see any other directions to go in with the story as it is. Also, that teaser is nothing. I guess they haven’t started filming or anything.June 1, 2014 at 5:23 pm #154224
The only thing that has me even slightly interested is the cast and crew working on it. I’m not a big fan of the original, and I don’t see any other directions to go in with the story as it is. Also, that teaser is nothing. I guess they haven’t started filming or anything.
It comes out in like 9 months from now so they must have done a good precentage of filming done by now.
June 1, 2014 at 11:35 pm #154225
Oh god another Cinderella remake(?)
The cast is reputable enough I just want a clever twist to the story.November 19, 2014 at 7:10 am #154226
We have a full-trailer:
I’m hopeful for this, it can be pretty good. It looks really faithful to the animated film which I’m a little disappointed by. In terms of Oscars I can see this being a contender for Production Design and Costume Design
Thoughts?November 19, 2014 at 7:48 am #154227
So I feel like I watched the whole movie just with the trailer… And why would anyone pay to see a story that is more known that Kim Kardashian’s leaked sex tape? I don’t know man, this all looks incredibly pointless and I don’t know what in the world crossed Cate Blanchett’s mind to do this.November 19, 2014 at 8:47 am #154228
I’m sensing some tonal issues. It looks like the movie can’t decide if it wants to be fun and goofy or dramatic and tearjerking. But I’ll reserve judgement until I see it. The cast all looks good, although the visual look reminds me a little too much of the Brandy TV version (which is a great movie, but I don’t need to see it again with more white people and less music)November 19, 2014 at 9:02 am #154229
I don’t know man, this all looks incredibly pointless and I don’t know what in the world crossed Cate Blanchett’s mind to do this.
I forgot what show it was but it was around Oscar time and she mentioned she has young kids so mabe thats it? Either way, she looks great in the movie lol. This trend of remaking/adapting animated films into live action from them (Maleficnet, 101 Dalmations, this, and whatever else they have planned) is interesting.November 19, 2014 at 10:54 am #154230
They should have adapted the musical version. This trailer looks very odd to me. Meh.November 19, 2014 at 1:13 pm #154231
This looks gay.February 13, 2015 at 3:09 pm #154233
So far 3 good reviews are out and not surprisingly, Cate is the stand out.
Though this lavish, live-action ‘Cinderella’ could never replace Disney’s animated classic, it’s no ugly stepsister, either
In Disney’s new live-action “Cinderella,” four mice are ballooned into elegant white horses, two lizards are forced to serve as makeshift footmen, and an oblivious old goose gets zapped into driving a pumpkin carriage. But as the American Humane Assn. can attest, no animals were harmed in the making of this delightful if overly safe update of the gold-standard toon classic. More importantly, the underlying property emerges untarnished, as director Kenneth Branagh reverently reimagines Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tale for a new generation the world over, spelling countless opportunities to exploit fresh interest in the story throughout the Disney universe.
The latest in a trend to rework the most precious treasures in the Mouse House vault, “Cinderella” is by far the studio’s most calculated retelling yet, to the extent that those who know the toon by heart may find Chris Weitz’s serviceable script a wee bit dull. Unlike last year’s daringly revisionist “Maleficent” or the prince-shirking Cinderella seen in Stephen Sondheim’s wink-wink “Into the Woods,” this kid-gloves production plays things ultra-careful, lest it inadvertently cause a single person to love the 1950 toon one iota less.
The goal, of course, is to give fans and future adherents alike a chance to delve deeper into the world suggested by uncle Walt’s “original,” for which no less a pair than costume queen Sandy Powell and production-design maestro Dante Ferretti have been enlisted. It’s the dazzling texture those two bring to the production that makes “Cinderella” such an exquisite visual experience, in which every gown is a thing to covet, each room one that audiences can imagine themselves exploring to their hearts’ content.
Such a lavish approach is not without its drawbacks, as it can inadvertently serve to make the human cast feel almost plain by contrast. Only Cate Blanchett, who plays the imperious Lady Tremaine, fashion-plate stepmother to ash-covered orphan Ella (“Downton Abbey’s” Lily James), seems fit to hold her own against such extravagant costumes and sets — and none of the outfits are more formidable than Blanchett’s elaborate wardrobe of brilliant green gowns, stunningly designed to complement the butterfly-lit star’s ginger locks and ruby-red lips. With eyes wide, brows arched and her mouth in a permanent scowl, Blanchett blends aspects of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Marlene Dietrich into an epic villainess, so deliciously unpleasant one almost wishes the film were focused more on her.
Alas, this is Cinderella’s story — relatively blasé by comparison, though still quite promising in the wish-fulfillment department. Perhaps unwisely, the fairy tale opens while Ella is still a girl (Eloise Webb), showered with love by her birth parents (Ben Chaplin and Hayley Atwell). In short order, Mother falls ill and Father remarries, only to expire on his next business trip abroad, leaving the young lady at the mercy of Lady Tremaine and her two insufferable daughters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera), who promptly demote their half-sister to scullery maid, rechristening the poor soot-smeared wretch “Cinderella.”
These tragic circumstances have always been a part of Cinderella’s backstory, though it’s asking rather much of a young audience to experience the loss of both parents alongside the story’s long-suffering heroine. One might say it builds character — would that it did, for Cinderella doesn’t necessarily come across any more dimensional here than she did in the earlier animated film. Given how closely this version adheres to the well-known plot, watching the movie can feel a bit like one of those “Double Check” exercises from Highlights magazine, in which eagle-eyed kids are asked to spot the tiny differences between two otherwise identical drawings.
Precious little has changed in the plot itself, apart from a scene in which Cinderella meets Kit (“Game of Thrones” king Richard Madden) before the story’s famous ball, motivating the charming prince to expand the roster of invited guests beyond mere royalty to include all the young ladies of the land. He, too, is soon to be orphaned, and his ailing father (the great British actor Derek Jacobi, making his fourth appearance in a Branagh-made period piece) wants nothing more than to see his son married before he dies — an arrangement that the manipulative Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgard) has already made with Princess Chelina of Zaragosa (Jana Perez, one of several non-white actors allowed into peripheral roles).
Given her shut-in status at the cottage, it’s not entirely clear what Cinderella is doing riding in the woods on this particular afternoon, though the scene’s strategic purpose is perfectly clear: Defined here by her kindess and courage, it wouldn’t do for her to be a gold digger like her stepsisters. Whereas Anastasia and Drizella attend the ball scheming to land the hand of a prince who might erase their debts and elevate the family name, Cinderella merely hopes to see the gentleman she met in the woods — a wish for which she’ll require the assistance of a flamboyant fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter, stripped of her goth veneer).
So intense is the young maiden’s yearning that the movie practically begs for a big, showstopping “I Want” song — or better yet, a liberated alternative, a la “Frozen’s” “Let It Go” — but Branagh seems woefully unwilling to introduce song into his “Cinderella,” save for the “Lavender’s Blue” nursery rhyme Ella’s mother teaches her in the pic’s opening moments (which all-too-tentatively comes around at the pic’s climax). Although the most appropriate way to reinvent the Disney toon might have been as a full-blown tuner, Branagh relegates musical expression to the background, where his longtime composer Patrick Doyle (dating back to “Henry V”) comes to the rescue with a robust, fully orchestrated score — a defining contribution, adding more to the project’s sense of timelessness than any other artistic element.
Well aware that he’s being tasked with creating a new classic, Branagh (working with d.p. Haris Zambarloukos) wisely chose to shoot on Kodak stock, resulting in a texture that’s become increasingly rare among such big productions. And yet, given the sheer volume of visual-effects shots, “Cinderella” demonstrates something of a split personality, aesthetically speaking. On one hand, it’s full of elaborate, CG-enhanced flyovers as virtual cameras swoop about the imaginary kingdom. (These views, so common among films set in Middle-earth, Narnia and other make-believe worlds, lend the fairy tale a sense of scale, but never look quite real.) Meanwhile, captured in anamorphic widescreen on actual celluloid, the character scenes give “Cinderella” a tangible quality, especially those situated on Ferretti’s baroquely appointed physical sets.
The effect is never more impressive than at the moment of Cinderella’s grand entrance at the ball, as she steps onto the balcony and descends the stairs to accept her first dance with the prince. In scenes like this (imagine Audrey Hepburn’s “War and Peace” waltz amplified a hundredfold), Branagh pulls out all the stops, attempting to outdo Powell and Pressburger, Ophuls and Renoir in a single go as the camera swirls about his awestruck heroine. This moment is matched only by the one in which Cinderella’s fairy godmother transforms her ballgown from tattered pink to butterfly-encrusted blue, lifting the young lady into the air, where she spins amid a cloud of magic dust.
Here, Cinderella fares far better than her animal friends. Outside the realm of animation, there’s no elegant way to morph a mouse into a fine white steed, or make a lizard look gallant, though the CG crew inject a few laughs along the way. “Cinderella” could do with more of that — poetry, too, as Branagh’s Shakespearean roots beg for a more literary script. It’s all a bit square, big on charm, but lacking the crackle of “Enchanted” or “The Princess Bride.” But though this “Cinderella” could never replace Disney’s animated classic, it’s no ugly stepsister either, but a deserving companion.
Berlin Film Review: ‘Cinderella’
Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (noncompeting), Feb. 12, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 105 MIN.
A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release and presentation of an Allison Shearmur, Beaglepug, Kinberg Genre production. Produced by Simon Kinberg, Shearmur, David Barron. Executive producer, Tim Lewis.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Screenplay, Chris Weitz, based on Disney’s Cinderella properties and the fairy tale written by Charles Perrault. Camera (color, widescreen), Haris Zambarloukos; editor, Martin Walsh; music, Patrick Doyle; production designer, Dante Ferretti; supervising art directors, Les Tomkins, Gary Freeman; senior art director, Stuart Rose; art director, Anthony Caron-Delion; set decorator, Francesca Loschiavo-Ferretti; costume designer, Sandy Powell; sound (Dolby Digital), Stuart Wilson; supervising sound editor, James Mather; re-recording mixers, Mike Dowson, Richard Pryke, Christopher Benstead; special effects supervisor, Dave Watkins; visual effects supervisor, Charley Henley; visual effects producer, Emma Norton; visual effects, MPC; stunt coordinator, Steve Dent; assistant director, Will Dodds; second unit director/camera, Alexander Witt; casting, Lucy Bevan.
Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Nonso Anozie, Stellan Skarsgard, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell, Rob Bryndon, Jana Perez, Alex MacQueen, Tom Edden, Gareth Mason, Paul Hunter, Eloise Webb. (English, French dialogue)
‘Cinderella’: Berlin Review
1:00 PM PST 2/13/2015 by David Rooney
The Bottom Line
Quite a ball
Berlin Film Festival (Out of Competition)
Friday, March 13 (Disney)
Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Nonso Anozie, Stellan Skarsgard, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell
Kenneth Branagh directs Disney’s new live-action take on the timeless fairy tale, starring Lily James in the title role and Cate Blanchett as her cruel stepmother.
The color, vibrancy and unabashedly romantic heart explode off the screen in Cinderella. Directed by Kenneth Branagh with obvious affection for the 1950 Disney animated classic, the studio’s opulent update is enhanced by sumptuous physical craftsmanship as well as the limitless possibilities of what CG technology can achieve. Screenwriter Chris Weitz embraces both the magic and the humanity of the classic fairy tale. He underlines the virtues of kindness and courage in a heroine right out of the pages of a traditional storybook, who gradually reveals the qualities of a self-possessed modern girl.
Girls, of course, will be the core constituency for this enchanting retelling. But anyone nostalgic for childhood dreams of transformation will find something to enjoy in an uplifting movie that invests warm sentiment in universal themes of loss and resilience, experience and maturity.
Lily James, the peaches-and-cream beauty best known as Lady Rose on Downton Abbey, plays the title character with unaffected sweetness. But Ella is first seen as a 10-year-old (Eloise Webb), and in Disney’s trademark orphan-maker formula, she loses her beloved mother (Hayley Atwell) in the opening minutes. While she never forgets her, Ella recovers enough to grow up happily with her adoring merchant father (Ben Chaplin). But no sooner has he installed his haughty new wife (Cate Blanchett) and her gauche daughters Drisella (Sophie McShera, another Downton recruit) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) in the mansion, than dad ups and dies while on a business trip.
That’s an ample share of tragedy for any protagonist to absorb in the first 20 minutes, and anyone who doesn’t know the raw deal Ella suffers thereafter either is still in diapers or living under a rock. Weitz freshens the familiar tale with small but significant tweaks, though mostly sticks to a template that combines the previous Disney iteration with Charles Perrault‘s 1697 version.
One change is that Ella first encounters Prince Charming (Richard Madden) before the ball, while out riding in the woods after her new family has reduced her to servitude, derisively nicknaming her Cinderella. She shares her kindness credo, persuading the handsome stranger to spare the life of the magnificent stag he and his party are hunting; he conceals his royal identity as they circle one another on horseback.
This puts them on equal footing as the seeds of intoxicating romance are sewn. And even as it evolves — with the standard steps of resplendent transformation, return to stinging reality and glass slipper deliverance — the film defines their love not as an act of rescue but of two people accepting each other for who they are. That spin has been around at least since Pretty Woman, but Weitz uses a gentle touch to blend the contemporary attitudes into the old-world mix. He contrasts the true union of Cinderella and the prince with cynical examples of marrying for political, social or economic advantage, as pursued by the royal court’s self-serving Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgard) or the heroine’s scheming stepmother.
Cinderella addresses the character by that term during a moment of sorrow, and Blanchett’s feline malevolence is priceless as she tells her that such formality isn’t necessary. “Madam will do,” she says with an icy smile. Looking the very picture of soignée 1940s-style chic in Sandy Powell‘s extraordinary costumes, Blanchett reinvigorates the textbook villainess both with her delicious cruelty and her gnawing resentment. “Love is never free,” she says bitterly as she contemplates her own narrowed choices and exposes her ruthlessness.
Blanchett pulls off a superb balancing act, making the stepmother archly amusing with her world-weary imperiousness, but also giving her a tang of desperation and tiny hints of a less refined woman beneath all the manufactured poise. While her mission is to secure her daughters’ future along with her own, her barely disguised disdain for those idiotic brats lends additional underlying pathos to her malice.
If there’s a nagging oversight in Weitz’s screenplay it’s the failure to justify how a man as sensitive as Ella’s father would open himself up to such a patently venal new mate, with her preening vanity and extravagant flamboyance. But hey, it’s a fairy tale, right?
The tyrannical trio’s degradation of Cinderella into an object of ridicule and a thankless drudge comes as a gradual progression from snark to bullying to outright abuse. And without belaboring any moral lessons, the film makes the point that Madam and her two simpering fools are ultimately worse off, having never known an example of goodness. The theme of children emulating their parents while navigating their own path between right and wrong emerges with delicacy, both through Ella’s real family in the early scenes, and in a tender deathbed exchange between the benevolent King (Derek Jacobi) and his son, which is one of the film’s most affecting moments.
Branagh at times forces the humor with a heavy pantomime hand, getting slapsticky with Rob Brydon as the royal portrait artist, or allowing his old pal Helena Bonham Carter to turn the Fairy Godmother into a campy nutter. And the stepsisters’ oafish comic antics can wear a bit thin. But the playfulness generally pays off, particularly in the quaint, quintessentially Disney touches, such as the extended family of mice that Cinderella dotes on, along with assorted other critters that become raw material for the Fairy Godmother’s wand when it’s time to hit the ball.
In perhaps the most obvious sign of Disney addressing the requirements of a 21st century audience, this is a multiethnic kingdom where the prince’s senior advisor and most trusted friend (Nonso Anozie) is black, and the princesses trotted out as potential brides are African, Asian and Latin, along with vanilla Northern European. However, contemporary notes in the dialogue are kept mostly to a minimum. (“I hate myself in portraits, don’t you?” groans the prince.) Unlike such winking fairy tale overhauls as Ella Enchanted or Mirror Mirror, this one remains fundamentally traditional.
CG work — whether it’s the digitally rendered animals and their magical transformation, dancing butterflies over a field of wildflowers, or the beautiful coastal kingdom, with galleons arriving for the ball — is first-rate. Even at its most elaborate, as in an accelerated race against the clock, when midnight strikes and Cinderella’s coach and attendants morph midflight back to their original states, the techno-trickery is fun and captivating.
What’s perhaps more impressive, however, are the lovingly detailed craft contributions, notably maestro Dante Ferretti‘s eye-popping sets. Elements of stately British National Trust properties are incorporated with lavish interiors for a charming 19th century look. Ella’s family home is a maze of rooms bursting with art and design, from paintings, tapestries, brocades and exquisite floral wall treatments to a swan chandelier that’s like an ice sculpture. The chinoiserie and other exotic elements reflect the father’s professional travels, while the attic to which Cinderella is exiled is an imposing garret, rich in gothic grandeur.
Of course, the story’s key set piece is the ball, and Ferretti goes all out to create an environment of glittering royal splendor worthy of the romantic fireworks, while Haris Zambarloukos‘ gliding camera stops just short of going into swooning overdrive.
Powell’s mixed-period costumes, with their astonishing range and inventive design flourishes, are up there with Ferretti’s work creating a visual orgy. Blanchett’s drop-dead glamour is at the top of the list, with her daughters’ gaudy gift-wrap ball gowns at the deliberately vulgar low end. (Their coordinated ensembles throughout are a hoot.)
It’s a challenge at this point in pop culture’s tireless fascination with the princess fantasy to reinvent the fairy-tale makeover frock. But Cinderella’s ball gown is an airy dream, seemingly lit from within, its gauzy sky blue a precise match for the prince’s eyes as they pool with tears of joy. While James and Madden are playing set-in-stone archetypes, their chemistry is lovely. And the notion of them as two pure hearts who see the imperfect world not for what it is but what it could be is touching without being syrupy.
Pacing might be a tad leisurely for the youngest audience members here and there, but adults will appreciate the grace and wit of this adaptation. Patrick Doyle‘s lush score augments the excitement, sadness or romance as required. And in a pleasing nod to the 1950 Disney film, James and Bonham Carter resurrect songs from that version, “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” respectively, over the end credits. The former becomes a soaring waltz, which effectively distils the tone of this new Cinderella.
Production company: Walt Disney Pictures
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Nonso Anozie, Stellan Skarsgard, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Eloise Webb
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenwriter: Chris Weitz, based on Disney’s ‘Cinderella’ properties and the fairy tale by Charles Perrault
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur, David Barron
Executive producer: Tim Lewis
Director of photography: Haris Zambarloukos
Production designer: Dante Ferretti
Costume designer: Sandy Powell
Music: Patrick Doyle
Editor: Martin Walsh
Visual effects supervisor: Charley Henley
Casting director: Lucy Bevan
Rated PG, 105 minutes
13 February, 2015 | By Lee Marshall
Dir: Kenneth Branagh. US-UK. 2015. 105 mins
Disney and Kenneth Branagh’s new, live-action version of the classic fairytale could well be the last great big-budget romantic film of the analogue era. With its sumptuous, no-expenses-spared sets and its yards-of-tulle costumes, created respectively by living legends Dante Ferretti and Sandy Powell, not to mention its vibrant colour photography using real 50 and 200 ASA film and Panasonic anamorphic lenses, Cinderella is a paean to a dying epoch, a lost, handcrafted age of Hollywood filmmaking. But it’s also a delightfully clear-eyed adaptation of Charles Perrault’s fable of goodness triumphing over adversity, which brings psychological depth to characters like Cate Blanchett’s magnificent, believable stepmother, and even provides a little geopolitical context for the story’s fantasy kingdom, without forfeiting the magic – both supernatural and romantic – that has made Cinderella such an enduringly necessary tale for generation after generation.
Though Lily James’ radiant Cinders knows how to stand up for herself, Chris Weitz’s screenplay is not a girlpower rewrite like Frozen, nor does it do a Snow White and the Huntsman, or a Mirror Mirror, and mess with a perfectly good story. The credits tell us that the film is “based on Disney’s Cinderella properties and the fairytale written by Charles Perrault”, so alongside the fairy godmother, the pumpkin carriage and the glass slipper – already there in Perrault’s 1697 version of the folktale – we get (thanks to some seamless GGI work) the helper mice and, briefly, the bluebirds, though the footmen are now lizards (as in Perrault) and the coachman a goose. And there are no songs – only a lush, emotional orchestral score by longtime Branagh collaborator Patrick Doyle, which peaks in a catchy, swoony waltz at the ball between Cinders and her dashing prince.
Released on March 13 in the US and rolling out in most other territories soon after, Cinderella will provide an interesting test case of the appetite for old-fashioned fairy-tale romance outside of the Christmas slot. Squarely aimed at a female market, but also marketable as a safe date movie, the film will probably play a little older than Frozen’s core six-to-eleven audience, with Disney clearly banking on its cross-generational potential.
Filling in a backstory that merited just a line of voice-over narration at the beginning of Disney’s 1950 animated version, Branagh and Weisz’s Cinderella opens on the idyllic childhood of ‘Ella’, who lives with her loving ma (Atwell) and doting but work-weary travelling merchant of a father (Chaplin) in a big, comfortable country house placed somewhere on the border between fantasyland and England’s home counties. The mother soon ails and dies, telling Ella before she slips away that she should “have courage, and be kind” – words that will recur like a talisman from here on in.
Her father’s ill-advised second marriage brings sultry widow Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) and her two empty, snobbish daughters (Grainger and McShera) into the household. Blanchett is chillingly magnetic as a scheming flame-haired viper, whose dangerous, serpentine qualities are brought out by her 1940s, wartime-vamp dresses and crimped hairstyles. When her father too dies while away on business, Ella is left to the mercy of her stepmother and sisters, but it’s not only envy of their stepsister’s beauty and accomplishments that motivates her slow but sure demotion from equal to servant girl; Lady Tremaine’s bitterness at having lost not one but two male providers of Parisian couture and other essentials is shown to be another factor, as is her simmering resentment of Ella’s dead mother. The fact that she is also not-so-secretly disgusted by the idiocy of her own daughters gives her persecution of the ash-smeared girl they all soon start calling ‘Cinder-Ella’ another twist.
A woodland encounter during a stag hunt provides a nice foil to the later device of the unknown beauty at the ball. Ella has no idea who the prince (Madden) is when she first meets him on horseback, believing – his rich hunting doublet notwithstanding – that he’s a humble apprentice. We first see the royal palace from the air, along with a stretch of coastline that makes what we discover is a “small kingdom among great states” look like a cross between Middle Earth and the landscape background of a Flemish old master painting. It’s an authentic Baroque extravaganza, more Versailles than Disneyland, and its politics feel credible too, with the shrewd but kind-hearted king (Jacobi, spurred on to a nicely affecting performance by his old protégé, Branagh) eager to push through a marriage for his son that will bring security to the vulnerable realm.
James, who came to fame in Downton Abbey, is well-cast as Ella: she’s fresh-faced and kind but with a determination in her face – centred on those dark eyebrows – that comes out in a splendid final stand-off with her stepmother when, in another variant on the old story, she refuses to cut a power-sharing deal. Game of Thrones star Madden’s smart, down-to-earth prince is equally convincing – he’s not unlike a modern royal, trying to balance affairs of state with affairs of the heart, aware that he is not quite a free agent in either. And in the film’s most obvious casting gambit, Helena Bonham Carter’s Fairy Godmother is a scatty magic-weaver who sounds a bit like Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous.
Her wand-waving magic, however, is oddly anti-climactic. It had to happen, of course, because it’s there in “Disney’s Cinderella properties”, and there are enough variants in the exhilarating CGI pumpkin-to-carriage and carriage-to-pumpkin sequences to keep things feeling fresh. But with so much psychological realism in this new version of the old tale, and such a resourceful Cinders, you kind of wish the script had allowed her to work out her own way of going to the ball, without Bonham Carter’s bad-hair-day deus ex machina.February 13, 2015 at 3:19 pm #154234
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Courage and kindness (and perhaps a little magic for good measure) are the cornerstone of Kenneth Branagh’s sweet retelling of Cinderella (2015), a benevolent yet paradoxically cravenness re-imagining of Charles Perrault’s famous fairytale. A live-action Disney production starring Cate Blanchett, Lily James and Richard Madden, its safe to assume there are no evil stepsisters getting their eyes pecked out by birds here, yet there does remain something rather vexing about the easily digestible perpetuation or archaic gender norms in this enjoyably blithe, yet problematic celebration of beauty and hetronormative behaviour. The iconic Disney ident seamlessly flows straight into Cinderella’s storybook exposition.
Sharing more in common with the 1951 Disney animation (which itself premièred at the very first Berlinale) than the Brothers Grimm’s gloomy tale, British director Branagh’s innocuous adaptation is clearly aimed primarily at younger audiences. Eschewing the innuendo and subtly implanted adult humour of similar contemporary family films, Branagh instead relies on the visual opulence of his set design, Sandy Powell’s lavish costumes and the juvenile tomfoolery of his brazenly flamboyant approach to ultimately enchant audiences both young and old. Whilst faithfully replicating the pageantry of its forebears there are a few novel twists in the familiar tale. For example, relative newcomer Lily James’ disappointingly plastic Cinderella meets her very own Prince Charming (Richard Madden) prior to the Royal Ball.
Despite these fleeting narrative divergences the story pans out largely as expected. CGI mice and farm animals are on hand to add a touch of magic to proceedings, whilst supporting performances by Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi and Rob Brydon also lend the film some pantomime frivolity. Branagh also employs a few tricks he must have learnt whilst filming Thor, with the film’s rare moments of action triumphantly uniting of style and suspense to great success. Most notable during Cinderella’s attempts to get home before the Fairy Godmother’s spell wears of, Branagh turns a enchanted narrative device into a tense and exhilarating chase scene, with Cinderella desperately trying to escape the retreating fibrous walls of her makeshift carriage whilst the King’s cavalry advance in quick pursuit. However, the film’s strongest asset is Blanchett’s performance as the wicked stepmother. Constantly dressed to the nines, the simple manner in which she turns Cinders into a submissive slave through passive aggression is a joy to behold.
It feels redundant to criticise Cinderella’s for the corrosive message at its core about physical beauty equally happiness and virtuosity. And yet, as our heroine states to Prince Charming whilst attempting to refrain him from hunting a giant stag – “Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it should be done” – there’s no reason why a modern adaptation of Cinderella targeted at a young audience subconsciously forming their own opinions on class and gender shouldn’t attempt to disrupt the cultural messages embedded in the patriarchal canon of fairytales and their cinematic revisions. Audiences young and old, will unquestionably adore Cinderella, with its playfully tone and pantomime villainy a palatable way to pass the time. However, despite Blanchett’s resplendent performance and the comforting assurances that are inherent with any excursion into the reliably innocuous Disney universe it’s tough to overlook the fact that there’s something depressingly antiquated about Branagh’s dazzling fairytale and its regressive sexual politics.
Berlin Review: ‘Cinderella’ Directed By Kenneth Branagh, Starring Lily James, Richard Madden & Cate Blanchett
By Jessica Kiang | The PlaylistFebruary 13, 2015 at 4:00PM
A fairytale so deeply embedded in the collective unconscious that it’s given its name to a whole category of stories; the Cinderella myth, has been cinematically retold, reimagined, recreated and riffed upon countless times. In fact, recently it has felt like the only thing you can do with such a cornball story is reimagine it, to make it relevant to a modern audience, and to address its fundamentally regressive gender politics. But now, tumbling sparkly-eyed into this world of irony, reappropriation and po-mo deconstruction, comes Kenneth Branagh‘s “Cinderella” a straight-up retelling of the tale for Disney. With no sheen of reflexivity, and no in-jokey admission of its hokiness to hide behind, can this non-ironic un-re-invention possibly work? Actually, yes it can… and it does surprisingly well by approaching the story with a sincerity and sweetness that defy cynicism, and by casting Cate Blanchett.
Fairytales are Disney’s bread and butter, and “Cinderella” feels like their sine qua non, but the animated version from 1950, whose success consolidated the studio’s position as the family film factory we all know and are required by law to love, feels now like one of their lesser entries, especially compared to touch points like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “Beauty and the Beast.” So while it might have seemed like a pointless endeavor, (though obviou$ly the point is $elf-evident) in fact, there was room for improvement in issuing a definitive take on the story. And that’s what Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz have delivered here. They hit all the beats of a narrative that pretty much comes pre-installed in babies of all cultures, but also find room in between to let the story luxuriate, and to let a delightful cast add personality to the archetypes they embody.
Lily James (“Downton Abbey“) is a lovely Ella. She manages to steer away from saccharine, even when required to do such sickly things as sing to friendly mice. Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones“) makes an alluring Prince Charming with his blue eyes and gentle demeanor, and the scenes between him and his ailing father (Derek Jacobi) are surprisingly touching. Helena Bonham Carter has just one extended sequence as a dizzy twinkly Fairy Godmother, but also narrates the story in a pleasant, musical voice. Stellan Skarsgård gets to have a little fun as the scheming Grand Duke who requires the Prince to marry for politics, not love. Though she’s only in the very start, and doesn’t have a name aside from “Ella’s Mother,” Hayley Atwell impresses too, even when she has to rattle on about “magic” and the “power of kindness” and deliver ridiculous lines like “I believe in everything!”
But as so often with Disney films, this one is owned by its villain. Cate Blanchett, jaw-dropping in an Easter Parade’s worth of amazing costumes (that 2016 Oscar should just be wrapped up and mailed to Sandy Powell now), is the ace up the film’s fitted satin sleeve. Striking catlike poses and oozing poison when required, she is also given a little humanity, including a surprisingly dorky, vulgar laugh that suggests just how studied and artificial her elegance is. One scene in which she tells her life story like she’s the heroine of a “once upon a time” tale, does in two minutes what “Maleficent” couldn’t do in two hours: it helps us understand her character’s brokenness without declawing her one bit.
Branagh’s solid style, aided by DP Haris Zambarloukos‘ steady camerawork, lets Dante Ferretti‘s baroque, confectionary production design really sing out to the strains of Patrick Doyle‘s swoony romantic score. It also allows moments that would in any other film feel wildly overdone, to work. Like when Cinderella, undergoing her magical dress makeover, twirls around in a froth of glittery magic for about half an hour. But it can’t compensate for everything. The CG is occasionally ropey, and those parts of the story that were always silly remain silly. Some of the tweaks to the traditional tale, like having Ella meet but not recognize the prince, introduce credibility issues of their own: she finally works it out only after going to the Ball and dancing a whole dance with him while everyone else looks on, which doesn’t so much suggest “blinded by love,” as “tragically slow on the uptake.”
But intelligence is not a quality ever required of Cinderella, as the film’s mantra, which is mentioned roughly every three minutes makes clear. “Have courage and be kind” she repeatedly reminds herself, but the courage mentioned is rarely evidenced, and in addition to “having” and “being,” it’d be nice to see Cinders “doing.” In fact the same passivity issues face “Cinderella” as they do all of the story’s many derivatives, including a certain BDSM, Rated-18 soon-to-be-blockbuster, that will reportedly have attached to it the trailer for, you guessed it “Cinderella.” Seeing them so close together it’s impossible not to draw parallels as a pure, sweet-natured, largely passive female is “rescued” from ordinariness by a handsome prince/sadomasochistic billionaire.
But “Cinderella” does not try to be transgressive, or even progressive, and unashamedly sells itself as the old-fashioned wish-fulfillment little-girl fantasy that ‘Fifty Shades‘ tries to whip its way out of. A more honest film in that regard, it’s also more romantic, and just a whole hell of a lot better. It’s so good in fact, that it will no doubt extend this myth’s influence even further, so it can inform even more female rescue fantasies, and ensure a whole new generation of young girls, who like so many generations before them, grow up wanting to be princesses. Fingers crossed this time, though, that just a few of them grow up wanting to be Cate Blanchett instead. [B+]