Running time 1hr 45 min
WHAT the world needs, Disney has decided, is a straight, live action re-boot of not just Cinderella the fairytale itself, but Disney’s own 1950 animated version.
Following hot on the heels of the famous studio’s recent screen adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, Cinderella also finds itself released amid a post-Frozen movie landscape.
Consequently, this tradition-focused re-telling of the rags-to-riches tale not only seems dry and outdated, but it also seems off-kilter in its messaging. Where Into the Woods is innovative, subversive and satirical, with strong female characters that challenge the order, and where Frozen offers up admirable, accessible and realistic female role models, Cinderella gives us regressive chauvinistic stereotypes. Lily James’ stoic, downtrodden and girly Cinderella is certainly no match for Anna Kendrick’s feisty, independent and forthright Cinders.
Presumably, the Disney brief was to stick closely to the traditional tale but in doing so, director Kenneth Branagh has missed a trick. There’s no tongue-in-cheek approach here and as such, we’re left with a bad taste.
Dogged by criticism for perpetuating unrealistic ideals when it comes to the pertinent issue of body image (waists are waspishly cinched in), its star Lily James asserts that what’s being missed amid the furore is the script’s insistence that kindness and courage are the most important values to embrace.
It’s a fair point – but for a five-year-old girl, images have arguably more impact – and in any case, there’s plenty in this movie both script-wise and picture-wise that lauds Cinderella for being outwardly beautiful, even if it does denigrate the stepsisters (played by Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) for their inner ugliness.
Of its positives, Helena Bonham Carter is standout. She brings things to life when she’s on screen, in her idiosyncratic, peppy, wonderful way – but her screen time as the fairy godmother is woefully limited.
Cate Blanchett meanwhile, cuts a sad figure as the evil stepmother, and with a hint towards her psychological motivations, you wonder if her back story might have made the more interesting film.
With a fairly moving father-son relationship between king (Derek Jacobi) and handsome prince (Richard Madden), issues surrounding male roles are touched upon – but when all’s said and done, this new version of an old tale brings none of the last 65 years of progress to it and is a curious, confusing and controversial film as a result.