Monday, 23 March 2015


Walt Disney Studios Films

Everyone loves a princess, most especially Disney; their empire is built on them: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and of course, Cinderella. Classic animated films which have been adored for, and by, generations.

Now, in a bid to make what is old new again, Disney have begun making live-action versions of their back catalogue of animated classics, beginning last year with a revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty; viewing the action from the point of view of that tale's villain, Maleficent (Angleina Jolie in fine form even if the film was not).

And now comes the turn of Cinderella -- directed by Kenneth Branagh and penned by Chris Weitz, best known for his gross-out work on the original American Pie -- to go to the live-action ball. And Branagh's certainly got the storybook look right. Shot on film (by Haris Zambarloukos), he captures every production (Dante Ferretti) and costume (Sandy Powell) design detail, while CGI fills in the magical blanks; turning pumpkins into stagecoaches and mice into thoroughbreds (thank you, Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter)).

But technological magic can't do much to enliven proceedings. For all her beauty, Lily James' Cinderella is a bit of a pill. Not nearly as docile as Elle Fanning's Sleeping Beauty, she still views the world through rose-tinted glasses even after the death of her beloved father (Ben Chaplin), and her enforced servitude to her step family.

'Have courage and be kind' Cinderella repeatedly tells herself, so often in fact that you wish her evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett, not nearly chewing enough of the scenery) would just drop the passive-aggressive routine and go all-out aggressive on her stepdaughter's petticoat-ed behind.

For strangely, and sadly, this Cinderella is much more classic than expected. Absent is any hint of feminism, the kind which propelled Frozen, that more recent of Disney princess animation, and Maleficent: no man was going to get the better of Jolie's lover scorned (Fanning's Sleeping Beauty, on the other hand, only ever had one fate).

Even 2007's Enchanted, where Amy Adams played a storybook princess come to modern day New York, knowingly played with the Disney fairy tales' antiquated notions of princesses, Prince Charmings and inevitable wedded bliss.

But marriage to a prince (Game of Thrones' Richard Madden) is all that awaits Cinderella in 2015. Sure he disappoints his court by marrying below his station and for love, and little girls, for whom this film is squarely aimed at, will eat it up with a spoon. Tweens and older, however, will be well aware that it's Cinderella who's being sold short, even if she -- and this gorgeously mounted production -- looks like a million bucks.

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