Review by Justin Waldman and Mr. Will Wong
Part of the challenge of adapting a widely-beloved Tale is that it is difficult to appease everyone when expectations are stratospheric. However, even without the Music that made us fall in love with Cinderella as Children in the 1950 Original from Disney, Director Kenneth Branagh and Screenwriter Chris Weitz deliver still a beautiful Retelling of this timeless Classic.
For those who do not know the Story of Cinderella, it is about a young Girl named Ella (Lily James) who loses her Mother (Hayley Atwell) at a young age. One day, her Father (Ben Chaplin) remarries Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), with her obnoxious two Daughters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) joining the Family. Ella proves to be kind and courageous, something her Mother taught her to be, before her passing. And kindness she embraces selflessly, catering to her Stepmother and Stepsisters’ every whim.
When her Father is forced to work abroad, eventually passing away also, Ella is left under the care of her Stepmother, who makes her life miserable with a servant-like existence, relegated to a room in the ash-filled attic. The Prince (Richard Madden) one fateful day crosses paths with Cinderella in the forest. Becoming smitten with her and she with him, he makes it his mission to find the identity of this beautiful Maiden. To do so, he invites all the Ladies of the Kingdom to the Ball and while Ella wishes to attend, her Stepmother refuses to allow her to go, her sights on pairing either of her Daughters with the Prince. Kindness pays dividends as a weathered and teary Ella meets her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) who magically has her looking the Belle of the Ball for what would be the greatest night of her life. Will Ella find the courage to stand-up to her wicked Stepmother, who seems set on creating an ill fate for her? Will the Prince find again his one true love in Ella and she reunite with him?
What makes this Retelling of Cinderella truly exceptional is the phenomenal performances which Branagh draws from this brilliant Ensemble, all the while being faithful to the original Story we all love so much. James is perfect as Cinderella, filling our hearts with beauty, kindness and emotion in the face of adversity. Blanchett plays Lady Tremaine with great precision, capturing her true ambition not so much only as the ‘Evil Stepmother’, but a Woman looking to secure the legacy of her and her Daughters. She commands every scene she appears with authority and is devilishly-delicious. As well, Madden plays the lovestruck Prince wonderfully, full of charm even in his most vulnerable moment as a Son forced to face his beloved Father’s mortality. And is it wrong to have wanted to hear more singing from a scene-stealing Bonham Carter and James?
Costume Designer Sandy Powell (The Aviator, Shakespeare in Love) never fails to wow us, dazzling us once again with pure elegance in her intricate creations. The CGI here brings to life elements of the Story with breathtaking detail. You will be mesmerized by the pumpkin-to-carriage and vice-versa sequences. An absolute delight.
Also, you mustn’t miss-out on the fantastic FROZEN FEVER Short, which plays in advance of Cinderella! Arrive early.
Walt Disney Studio Pictures Canada release Cinderella Friday March 13, 2015.
Don’t forget to check-out our Chat with Lily James, star of CINDERELLA here!