Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Stellan Skarsgård, Derek Jacobi, and Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
At the heart of Cinderella is an absolutely lovely performance of Lily James as the title character. In the film's opening moments, we see how the deaths of her mother and father affect her, shaping her into woman who, despite adversity, still carries on the mission of her parents to be kind and generous to all. This little bit of extra background makes Cinderella a much more well-rounded character and gives Ms. James a little bit of development to sink her teeth into. The heartbreaking moments upon hearing of her parents death are handled just as nicely as when James is asked to look in awe upon an opulent ballroom or fall head over heels for a prince she just met. To me, Lily James is the epitome of what Cinderella should be and she is one of the biggest reasons the film succeeds.
Of course, the counterpoint to Cinderella's kind heart is the conniving nature of her Stepmother played with gusto and on-point scenery chewing by Cate Blanchett. Also given a bit of backstory, the audience is given the chance to discover why she becomes so nasty to her stepdaughter and this added bit of depth gives at least a little bit of reasoning behind her actions. Cloaked in some elegant garb, Blanchett snarls and jabs at Cinderella yet still manages to avoid being too cartoonish.
Cartoonish may be a descriptor that could be ascribed to Helena Bonham Carter's Fairy Godmother, but Branagh and Weitz smartly decide to keep her role small, similar to the animated film. Adding a nice amount of comedic relief in the middle to the film, Carter's quirkiness doesn't overstay its welcome. We also get a nice turn as well from Richard Madden as the Prince who gets more screen time and more background than nearly any other Disney film prince we've seen before.
In this day and age of modernization and experimental reboots, Kenneth Branagh instead decides to play things old-fashioned -- and there's an unmistakeable charm that accompanies this decision. Sumptuously designed and elegantly filmed, by eschewing the cynicism we may have come to expect in something like this, Branagh has crafted a rather timeless film in Cinderella that will last through the ages.
The RyMickey Rating: B