Movie Review: Cinderella

True to its story, Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh is faithful to its original fairytale telling. From the cinders on Ella’s face, to the evil cat Lucifer, each detail is precise and provides a modern take on the 1950 film.

Many of you are probably already familiar with the plot of Cinderella. A young girl with wealthy parents leads a perfect life in a grand estate with a bunch of lively animals. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when she loses her mother and her father marries a vile woman with two stepdaughters.

The girl is then forced by her new relatives to do all the housework and chores, earning her the name Cinderella, as she is often covered with soot from the chimney. A fairy godmother appears and grants her a ball gown and glass slippers so that she may attend a dance in the palace, where she meets and falls in love with Prince Charming. When the clock strikes midnight, she is forced to flee from the ballroom as her dress and carriage will soon disappear; she leaves behind a glass slipper, which serves as a compass and directs the prince to her.

One interesting addition to the plot in the movie, however, is the fact that Ella meets the prince prior to the dance. After being ridiculed by her stepmother and stepsisters for having cinders on her face, Cinderella runs off into the woods where she meets the prince, who is part of a hunting party. He disguises his true identity and claims that his name is Kit. Due to this encounter, however, the prince falls in love with Ella and convinces his father to invite every maiden in the land, in hopes that he will meet Ella again, only this time as a prince instead of a hunter.

Branagh’s version of the stepmother, Lady Tremaine, is a big craftier than the original. After she figures out (rather quickly) that Cinderella is the girl at the dance that the prince fell in love with, she tries to bargain with Ella, who is allowed to marry the prince under the following conditions: the stepsisters are given proper husbands, Lady Tremaine becomes the head of the royal household, and she is granted the title of countess. Although Ella refuses, the stepmother simply smashes Cinderella’s glass slipper and uses it as blackmail against the Duke who is forced to fulfill the Lady Tremaine’s wishes anyways.

The movie also includes several scenes featuring Ella’s mother, who is absent from the original movie. The interactions between the two help explain Cinderella’s affinity for wild animals, and her kind personality, which eventually captures the attention of the prince. The movie provides a welcome glimpse into the relationship between Ella and her late mother.

And for those who have always wondered why Cinderella did not simply run away from her terrible step-relatives, in the movie Ella is determined to follow her mother’s teachings of kindness and courage. To keep alive her mother’s words, the poor girl decides to put up with her stepmother and stepsisters.

While the cast and acting were well done, perhaps the center stage belongs not to Lily James, the actress who plays Ella, but rather the stepmother, played by Cate Blanchett. Cate’s version of Lady Tremaine balances the character nicely; instead of the selfish, absorbed woman found in other versions of Cinderella, this new stepmother is one with depth and personality. Her elegance draws admiration, rather than hatred from the viewers. Not to mention, her outfits are absolutely breathtaking.

Overall this new take on the classic Cinderella story is a familiar, yet invigorating one. While the plot is nearly identical to that of the original story, the actors and the details added by Branagh help distinguish the film from other fairytale remakes.

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