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March 19, 2015

Cinderella (***) PG

My first reaction was probably the same as yours when hearing of yet another stab at the fairy tale known as Cinderella, and that was a simple resounding cry of why? I mean, after so many attempts at bringing a live version of the story to the big screen—some successful and some not so much—what, other than the potential for a big financial return for the film’s investors, could possibly be the reasoning for mounting another take on this well worn chestnut?

But here’s the big surprise. The latest version of Cinderella is actually a very well made film and, if audiences will give it a chance, it’s likely to engender goodwill in the hearts of even the most hardened and cynical filmgoer. Take it from someone who truly expected nothing from what turned out to ultimately be an enchanting and pleasant experience.

The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh, a talent certainly capable of crafting cinematic treasures as evidenced by his directorial turns on such films as Hamlet and Dead Again, both made some two decades ago.

Lilly James as Cinderella & Cate Blanchett as her stepmother

Unfortunately, here of late, Branagh’s work as a director has largely been limited to such subjects as the comic book hero, Thor and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character. It’s nice to see Branagh exhibiting some passion for his filmmaking that’s been largely absent from his last several projects. The film is also scripted by the always dependable Chris Weitz. I can’t help but believe that the contribution of these two talents working in tandem is one of the reasons why the film works so well.

The film’s script is largely based on two sources, the 1950 Disney animated version and the 1697 original story, Cendrillon. The darker aspects of the 1697 story have been laid aside but that doesn’t hurt the film one iota. It still works, although I must admit that it would be nice to see a straightforward retelling of the film’s original source—which includes such dastardly goings on as eye gouging—someday.

As for the story, what more can one say that isn’t already known. I really don’t think there’s much reason to regurgitate things here other than to say it’s been brought up to date a bit. Instead, I’ll go on and mention how the film’s casting aids immeasurably in the scheme of things. Newcomer Lily James does an exemplary job filling the glass slippers of the title character and there are many great familiar faces in the pivotal supporting roles. For instance, we have Cate Blanchett as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. It’s also nice to see the great Derek Jacobi once again on the big screen as The King.

The film is gorgeously lensed in widescreen by cinematographer, Hans Zambarloukos, and he deftly brings the color palette required for a film like this to heights rarely reached these days. It’s only one of the reasons why Cinderella is such a surprising and refreshing take on an overly familiar story. Who would have thought?

Questions or comments? Write Adam at




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