Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Review: Some well known stories, especially fairy tales, seem to be re-made so many times that one might think it futile to produce another version. But bottom line up front, this Cinderella is a treat and worth seeing.
We’re not really sure of the date, but safe to say it is back in the days of horse and carriages that this story takes place. A young fanciful girl named Ella (Lily James) loses her mother, and becomes very attached to her doting father (Ben Chaplin). Father and daughter have a wonderful relationship when he is not away on his business trips. But the father grows lonely for a wife, and now Ella has a Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and two step sisters: Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShea). Shortly after the wedding Ella’s father goes on a fateful business voyage and is lost at sea. Ella is devastated, and takes solace in doing chores at the large country house she now shares with three other women. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, Ella is squeezed out of her bedroom and banished to the attic, and becomes a servant for the Stepmother and daughters. Scorned and ridiculed, Ella is transformed into Cinderella.
Ella still has her white horse, and rides into the countryside to escape her tormentors at home and feel free. In a forest setting she comes upon a stag and watches the beautiful animal, only to be joined by a handsome young fellow dressed for the hunt. He introduces himself as Kit (Richard Madden), and Ella and the young man are immediately infatuated with each other. The spell is broken when two more riders appear, and Ella gallops off, leaving “Kit” (the Prince) longing to find this young woman that has captured his heart.
The ailing King (Derek Jacobi) has arranged for a ball to be held so a suitable royal bride can be found. The Prince prevails upon his father to open the invitation to all eligible young maidens in the kingdom, which creates a feeding frenzy among these females. And no one is more ruthless and calculating in her planning to ensnare the Prince than the Stepmother, and her clueless two daughters.
The story is familiar to us all, but the fun part of this film is how Cinderella gets to the ball, and how she and the Prince spend their time together. Of course there is a Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), and her magical feats are the highlight of the show. As well as the magic coming “undone” at the stroke of midnight. Cate Blanchett gives a wonderful performance as a Stepmother that is so unremittingly black-hearted that it is uncomfortable to watch her. Lily James is sweet and beautiful and makes a perfect Ella. The movie is fun and romantic and a visually stunning treat for the audience.
Huh? What the….: I have no idea how the Prince could avoid stepping on Cinderella’s ball gown during their dance….
How come the only magic that doesn’t disappear at midnight are the two glass slippers?
Dialogue Nuggets: Narrator – “She, too, had know grief. But she wore it wonderfully well.”
Stepmother – “How long has your family lived here, 200 years? And in all that time you never thought to decorate?”
Ella to Kit – “Just because it’s what’s done doesn’t mean it should be done!”
Stepmother to Cinderella – “I will not have anyone associate my daughters with you. You are nothing but a servant girl!”
Cinderella to Coachman – “I’m frightened. I’m not a princess!” Coachman – “And I’m a lizard, not a coachman. Enjoy it while it lasts!”
Best Credit After Film: “Lizard doubles”.