Disney’s live action of Cinderella does contain laughter and tender moments, but with the melodrama made to deepen the plot, there is slight imperfection.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Chris Weitz
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
This adaptation of Cinderella is slightly extended and, unlike Maleficent, mostly sticks to the familiar story. Now, as for the extended part? Well, that comes in us seeing Cinderella (Lily James) as a child, and during the times when her father (Ben Chaplin) and mother (Hayley Atwell) were alive. However, with their deaths, the familiar story is shown. One in which an evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett), with her spoiled and wicked daughters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Granger), make poor Cinderella’s live a living hell. But then comes the prince, named Kitt (Richard Madden), who falls deeply in love with Cinderella. Thing is, with the needs of his kingdom battling his heart, he is forced to decide which will take precedence. Leaving you to wonder if the magic that brought them together maybe strong enough to keep them from tearing apart.
First and foremost, this film has the potential to make James into a star. For while she is recognizable for her role on Downton Abbey, in this film she is allowed to explore a sort of strength, despite the film’s obvious focus on appealing to children, which allows us to see she maybe a more capable actress than Downton Abbey allows her to exhibit. This can mostly be seen through the hope in James’ eyes, and mannerisms, despite her character losing her parents, and spending perhaps years under the shoe of her wicked stepfamily. All the while, James finds a way to give the character the appearance of having a burden on her shoulders, yet smiling despite of.
And while James surely maybe the one to benefit the most from this film, I would be remiss to not mention that her chemistry with Madden, and the performance of Blanchett, are what really push her toward being a better lead. For while Madden doesn’t elevate himself past being an attractive love interest, Blanchett makes for a perfect villain. If only because the airs and graces she brings to most of her roles is used to maximize the bourgeois characteristics of her character.
Leading to praise for screenplay writer Chris Weitz, for he takes a well-known property and adds the type of depth which makes these characters more complex than their animated counterparts. Take Blanchett’s character for example. Rather than being a wicked stepmother, without reason, we can see it is because of jealousy, envy, and because Cinderella presents a constant reminder of many things her character lacks. For with the stepmother no longer youthful, and a widow twice over, there is a lack of hope, possibility, and even the prospect of love. After all, their world isn’t modern. A woman like the stepmom isn’t going to be married simply for her looks, especially when she has no dowry, no title, and may not be able to birth children. So , of course, he is going to be jealous of Cinderella and make her life a living hell. Is it mature? No. But at this point, it seems the stepmother is more worried about securing the happiness of herself, and her daughters, above the wellbeing of everyone else. Making the character still evil, but someone you can feel slightly sympathetic for.
Leaving one last bit of praise: the film can be quite comical. For between dialog choices, and a handful of comedic moments which sometimes don’t seem scripted, both kids and adults will get a few giggles out of this film. Which I say will happen no matter what your taste in comedy.
The main glaring issue of this film I believe is it can come off as a soap opera sometimes. For while it benefits from allowing us to see the prince’s father have health problems, and showing us the difficult times of Cinderella, the interaction between characters seems overdone. To the point that as much as you may get teary eyed for Cinderella, you can almost instantly be taken out of the emotional state due to Derek Jacobi as the king, Blanchett at times, and even James. Making it so that as good as the film is at times, there are a few bumps and bruises as you make your journey toward the end.
Overall: TV Viewing
As enjoyable as the film is, it often does feel like it is simply part of a larger plan for Disney to capitalize on its familiar animated franchises by making them live action. With that said, like with Maleficent, it seems Disney is trying to explore their villains and characters, with added depth, in order to present them as more complex human being. Thing is, despite the welcomed complexity, the performances during those more darker moments don’t bring the film to heights which make it seem like it can equally be appealing to adults as it would children. For with a heavy-handed message dealing with courage and kindness, and performances which are as theatrical as a daytime soap opera, after a certain point the film begins to take on the liabilities of trying to be deeper than the animated tale, with varying degrees of success.
Things To Note
The film has a nice bit of diversity, mostly among its extras, and the diversity isn’t just in faces! The film also seems to present diversity in costumes for a seemingly Spanish character had a dress reminiscent of what you would expect from Spanish monarchy, and the darker skin characters had attire which would fit what you would expect from a country like Nigeria. Well, based off what was seen in Mother of George.
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