With Lily James, Cate Blanchett and James Madden. Chris Weitz, screenwriter.
Watching Cinderella’s newest version, directed by Kenneth Branagh, I was struck at how I forgot that the girl was not born into royalty and deposed, but born of relatively normal folk. Ella’s father is a merchant, called away on business, which is where he meets his second wife, played by Cate Blanchett, who after a sad interval when the girl, Ella, is mourning her mother, appears with two mean spirited daughters of her own.
The reason to see this movie is the costumes. They are truly marvelous. Ella, (Lily James) wears her cinched waist gowns with aplomb. The evil stepsisters are suited up in matching witty styles that broadcast their stupidity and vulgarity. The stepmother (Cate Blanchett) most often appears in green, a color associated with envy, bile, and greed. The menfolk are not as blessed, forced to wear uniforms of gold braid that calls to mind more a drum major than an officer of the royal guard.
The setting has grandeur, a kingdom described as a “backwater” by the evil stepmother, but looking like a cross between Monaco and a lake village in the Alps, thanks I guess to CGI. When the village populace arrives for the ball, it looks as if it might take a half an hour just to walk up the palace steps. Perhaps it was a bit overdone, but this is no ordinary backwater.
When Cinderella finally arrives at the ball and dances with the Prince, the choreography allows a swooning version of a waltz, with the audience everyone else but the enchanted pair. It may have gone on a bit long, but I was convinced that these two very good looking leads were swept up in a blossoming romance.
The supporting cast is excellent: Derek Jacobi as a dying king, Stellan Skarsgard as a venal officer, and Helena Bonham Carter as a slightly ditzy fairy godmother. I loved the magic, and the talking mice, and the fidelity to the original story. It veered from the Disney animated movie of 1950 yet acknowledged some of the fun — look for a reference to Bippity Boppity Boo.