Cinderella English Movie Review

Feature Film | U | Adventure, Drama, Family
Cinderella is a charming, sweeping, luscious yet grounded film that stays true to the original material, yet brings something new to the table. It's a nostalgic piece of cinema that warrants a watch for its simplistic innocence and visual splendor.
Mar 20, 2015 By Piyush Chopra

Every single girl, young and old, will see their fantasies come alive this weekend in Disney's live-action adaptation of the classic fairytale Cinderella. And even though it's a herculean task to succeed in pleasing so many people from the fairer gender all over the world, they will likely leave the theaters with a smile on their faces and their faith renewed in the romance of yore that they dreamt of as kids.

For the uninitiated, Cinderella is set in a mysterious, mythical, magical world with vibrant colors and colorful people, where the protagonists have a naive worldview, where parents die of unnamed diseases with 100% mortality rates, where typical dialogues about love and courage and kindness are uttered with more frequency than an underground metro train arriving at a station, where people still talk in Queen's English but remarriage is acceptable. And caught in this world is the loving, courageous and kind (Cinder)Ella.

Ella is victimized and enslaved by her evil stepmother and her two daughters, who treat her worse than a servant. But one day, everything changes for her when she comes across the charming Prince Kit, who could be her escape route out of her misery.

The biggest glitch with a live-action Cinderella in today's times is that it can sometimes be a little testing to see an innocent Ella taking all the torture from three wicked but harmless women without uttering a word in her defense. The advantage of doing an animated version is that it gives you a plausible suspension of belief, while giving you an added adorable factor. But director Kenneth Branagh, a highly experienced if above average filmmaker, manages to mostly overcome the limitations of the genre and format to deliver a well-conceived and well-executed product.

It is a sweeping, extravagant, luscious yet grounded film, one that works its way into your heart and sweeps you off the ground, much like a prince in a fairytale love story wthing. The one thing that the film has in abundance is charm. It's there in every frame, every dialogue, every costume, every performance.

Even though it remains almost completely faithful to the classic original tale, it still manages to bring something new to the table. Whether it's in its humor, its special effects or just in terms of the homage it pays to the classic, there is never this sense of complete predictability or going through the motions. Instead, it dazzles you with its special effects, serenades you with its visual flair and keeps you involved in its good vs evil fight.

Kenneth Branagh seems composed behind the lens, never panicking and buckling under the pressure of immense expectations, a daunting challenge that it is. He and writer Chris Weitz are assured in their vision of the film and determined to hit all the right notes, all the while relying on the old-fashioned magic of motion pictures to do the trick for them. Whether it's the VFX heavy sequences or simply the gracefully choreographed dance at the ball, Branagh keep things simple and effortless, and resists the temptation to go over-the-top in his extravagance.

The film is furthered bolstered up in all technical departments. Musical score by Patrick Doyle is very impressive, punctuating key moments with just the right sound to enhance their impact and the overall mood. The cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos is dazzling and resplendent, and is almost like another character in the film that keeps you occupied and engrossed. Editing by Martin Walsh is crisp and efficient and largely smooth. Special kudos to costume designer Sandy Powell for all the get-ups and dresses and shindigs that she manages to pull off, which went a long way into giving the film its particular look and the viewers an immersive experience.

Performance wise, there's no scope for any complaints. Lily James is stunningly beautiful as Ella, the fairest maiden in all of the lands, with her British charm on full display and literally dripping down her face. She exhibits a wide range of emotions, not an easy feat for a relatively inexperienced actress playing the role of a lifetime, and is never less than convincing as the mainstay character of the film. Game of Thrones star Richard Madden plays Prince Charming to the fullest of his ability, vowing you with his restrained performance and leaving an impact even in a shorter role.

Cate Blanchett shines through, as expected, as the wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine. She seems to be having the time of her life, embodying the evil character without any reservations whatsoever and with a suitably evil laugh in tow, ready to be whipped out and thrown in your face as and when needed. Whether it's her odd dressing sense or her biting remarks on Ella, Blanchett plays it without a pinch of salt.

Helena Bonham Carter as Ella's Fairy Godmother and Hayley Atwell as her real mother show up for one scene each and leave an impression, especially Bonham Carter in her oddball portrayal of the fabled being. Stellan Skarsgard plays his 10000th role as a villain, and gives an expectedly efficient performance.

Even though Cinderella may be old wine in a new bottle, and skepticism about its relevance isn't unwarranted, it's impossible not to like this film and what it stands for: a nostalgic piece of cinema that reminds us of everything that was good about the older, simpler times of storytelling, devoid of exorbitant budgets and selling out to earn billions of dollars. It is this primitive innocence that makes Cinderella worthy of suspending your belief and taking one more ride in the carriage transformed from a pumpkin, into the magical land of Ella and her Prince Charming.

Piyush Chopra