Perhaps a live-action adaptation of beloved fairy tales is just an inherently doomed idea, seeing how even without the ill-advised reinvention that Snow White and Maleficent underwent, Kenneth Branagh’s version of Cinderella is still such a chore to sit through.
Staying pedantically true to the original, the story about a commoner girl tyrannised by her stepmother and -sisters only to end up with the prince is exactly as you know it: decency triumphs, endurance pays off, love conquers all etc. The straightness, and squareness, with which it’s told, however, proves grating and intensely adult-unfriendly. The production is grand but unrefined, betraying a pompous and slightly garish style. Celebrated costume designer Sandy Powell certainly had a field day whipping up this colourful explosion of clothes, but most of her creations here, including the iconic glass slippers, are of the sparkly fluorescent sort that don’t necessarily speak quality.
The centrepiece dance scene at the royal ball, though, is beautifully choreographed and, as carried out by the film’s two attractive leads, looks like a million bucks. Cate Blanchett is clearly having a ball herself playing the evil stepmother, but her portrayal of meanness does sometimes fall into the cheaper winks-and-puffs school of villainous acting.
Cinderella | Directed by Kenneth Branagh (USA 2015) with Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden. Starts March 12
Originally published in issue #136, March 2015