Lily James as Cinderella

Lily James as Cinderella

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the new Cinderella movie left me cold. While the cast included Cate Blancette as the evil step mother, Downton Abbey stars Lily James (Rose) as Cinderella and Sophie McShera (Daisy) as an evil step sister, I think the weak script didn’t provide the actresses with much to work with.

The story begins with Ella as a young girl with perfect parents. Her mother’s death was implausibly quick as the woman goes from tucking her angel into bed and feeling fine to walking out of the bedroom and fainting to a schmaltzy death bed scene where the mother tells Ella to be brave and kind. These words make up the theme of the movie and grew tiresome because they’re so obvious.

I did like that by the time her father’s remarried and she’s exiled to the attic, Ellla meets the prince and captivates him with her wisdom (such as it was). At least this film tries to make the prince respect Cinderella for her character rather than just her looks.

Cinderella gets her nickname from one of her silly evil stepsisters, who’re evil, but not as mean as I’d expect. The same could be said for the stepmother – make her more evil.

Cinderella’s gown and hair do look stunning even when she’s a pauper. While the stepmother and stepsisters’ costumes are lavish, they look influenced by the 1940s which made it hard to place the story in an era. I imagine Cinderella set in the 18th century or earlier. I wish this story had picked an era and stuck with it.

Helena Bonham Carter does a good job as the fairy godmother, though I’d have thought this role could be more than just a character who magically solves Cinderella by giving her a gown, glass slippers and a carriage. The glass carriage looked very cool, but the metamorphosis of the footmen and horses is done with computer animation and this execution just looked weird.

The story is so well known. It’s been done so many times that to do a new version a filmmaker should have a masterful new take. That was missing. I still prefer the Rogers and Hammerstein version with Leslie Ann Warren.

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