Friday, March 13, 2015


Classic Fairy Tale with Laughs & Romance
Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgaard, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Sophie McShera

Review by James Colt Harrison

Director Kenneth Branagh has gone from Shakespeare to Cinderella, which only proves his versatility in the theatrical arts. Branagh is a national treasure in England, where he is a classically trained actor. Guiding the actors with a light-hearted touch proves delightful and fun. Everybody knows the story of Cinderella, so there is no surprise there. And, of course, the happy ending is expected as in the original story. But we’re not here for the story but more for how it is told.

Disney always loves to mix comedy with drama, giddiness with pathos, and the updated version of the classic Cinderella tale is no exception. Little Ella is only 10 years old when she loses her mother (Haley Atwell). Daddy (Ben Chaplin) remarries (Cate Blanchett) and presents Ella with two dreadful stepsisters ( Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera of Downton Abbey fame). Of course, there would be no story if he didn’t die himself. Little Ella is left to contend with her Wicked Stepmother, who treats her as a lowly servant. Cate Blanchett does some serious overacting but is missing the campier elements of such a character. Perhaps Joan Collins would have been a better choice. Being a far better clothes-horse than Blanchett, Collins is campy just standing there and doing nothing. Blanchett looks chic in Sandy Powell’s costumes, but Collins would have looked more like an overdressed drag queen and would be far funnier.

Anyone who is not familiar with the Cinderella saga must not yet be born or grew up in the Borneo forests with hedgehogs and no Disney theme park. When Cinderella accidentally meets the handsome prince (a dashing young Richard Madden of Game of Thrones) while horseback riding, we know she will automatically fall in love and he will also be smitten by the mysterious young girl. Madden is a good choice for the Prince as he exudes the charm, likeability, and solid build of a young Scotsman (b. June 18, 1986). Madden seems to have the acting chops he earned at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Pretty and innocent Lily James is the grown-up Cinderella. We’re all familiar with her as Lady Rose in her TV hit Downton Abbey. She brings the youthful exuberance and fun-loving nature she displays as her character in Abbey to her iconic Cinderella. Born Lily Thomson in England April 5, 1989, she is a graduate of the 2010 class at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

The movie has a gorgeously lavish look, partly due to its being shot on film and in widescreen process by Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos. Production Designer Dante Ferretti has done his usual outstanding job, and costume designer Sandy Powell has dressed both the ladies and men in form-flattering, colorful period pieces.

The new Cinderella is a harmless and fluffy piece of charming entertainment with some laughs, romance, and drama that should be pleasing to the entire family.

The movie will appeal to those who love fantasy and laughter.

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