Once upon a time, around about the 1970s, there was a Ladybird book called Cinderella. This book was so beloved, not only because it recreated the story for a whole generation of children, but most notably because Cinderella attended the ball on three different evenings, wearing three different dresses, which was simply amazing. This book meant that Cinderella is my favourite fairy tale. It’s also the reason I had to see the new Cinderella movie.
Ella (Lily James) has an idyllic childhood until she is orphaned and left in the care of her stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), her cruel stepsisters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) banishing her to live in the attic of her home. Treated as no more than a servant sleeping at the hearthside next to the cinders, Ella has a chance meeting with Kit (Richard Madden), who declares he is a palace apprentice, not revealing he is really Prince Charming. A ball at the palace is announced and Ella wants to attend to see Kit again, only to be stopped by Lady Tremaine. Just the hope of a Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) can get Ella to the ball.
This is a lovely movie which highlights there is so much more to the Cinderella story than her simply being rescued by a prince. I have always got more out of Cinderella than boy saves girl and this film’s focus on what it means to have courage, be kind and believe that things are possible, brings the core of the story back to Ella’s positive outlook and the way she cares for others despite her tragic circumstances. I actually found it an emotional movie to watch, partly because of seeing the sad backstory that gives another layer to orphaned Ella, but also because there is a real sense that she deserves the magic and draws it towards her through her actions.
The way the film looks is fantastic. Whilst it creates an otherworldly impression of a fairy tale with colours that pop out of the screen, the blue a little too blue, the yellow a little too yellow, Cinderella’s ball gown having it’s own dazzling glow, it just works and it’s also incredibly stylish. I need to take a moment to praise the costumes created by Oscar-winner Sandy Powell, particularly the way Cate Blanchett is styled. Not only is Blanchett brilliant as a cruel stepmother, with depths beyond the usual screaming Disney villain, she is dressed like a Hollywood siren from the 1940s, her entrance to the movie in a gorgeous outfit being just spectacular, her hidden face eventually being revealed from underneath the brim of a fabulous hat. Wow.
Watching this movie you just get a great sense that Walt Disney Pictures meant business doing a live action version of Cinderella. Giving Kenneth Branagh the job of director shows they wanted it to be something that had some gravitas as well as tonnes of magic. There’s not much of the cartoon in the movie, just tiny twitters of the mice being reminiscent of the animation and a hint of Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, and it may not have the three dresses of the Ladybird book, but what has been created is a Cinderella for a new generation that is going to be loved for decades to come. Go and see it, and love it.
Cinderella is currently playing in cinemas.