CINDERELLA – A Review by John Strange



By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Lily James, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Stellan Skarsgård
MPAA Rating: PG (for mild thematic elements)
Selig Rating: FULL PRICE
Runtime: 112 Min.
The story of Cinderella has been told many times over the decades in formats ranging from animated feature films to musicals.  Cinderella has been a part of our pop culture since Walt Disney gave us that amazing animated feature in 1950.  Each re-telling has tried to give us something new to catch our imaginations.
This newest film in the lineage spends more time on the character development than some of the others.  The story of the family of Ella and her parents is one we know well.  Ella’s father (Ben Chaplin) makes his living by traveling around the world, trading in goods.  His loving wife, Ella’s mother (Hayley Atwell) takes care of the home and their daughter.  She teaches young Ella to be a sweet loving young lady who treats everyone with respect and courtesy.
When her mother dies, Ella and her father are forced to carry on.  The two of them live their lives but the loss marks them.  For Ella, she has the servants as well as the animals to keep he occupied. Her father is not so lucky.  Eventually he finds a wonderful lady with two daughters who, like him, lost the love of her life.  The two marry and the three come to live with him and Ella.
The lady is pretentious and the daughters are worse.  They look upon the fine home as almost a grovel and make hateful comments about the decorations.  Ella’s new stepmother (Cate Blanchett)’s most telling remark is when she tells Ella the she need not call her stepmother, “Madame will do.”  The stepsisters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) are petty twit whose combined worth is less than the lowliest of the animals.
Ella offers her room to the stepsisters to give them more elbow room.  The Stepmother puts Ella into the drafty attic rather than allowing her to move to one of the other bedrooms with the excuse that those rooms are top be redecorated.  Ella sucks it up and moves her belongings and most of those from her mother to the attic.  Ella’s one consolation is that her friends, the mice, live in the attic with her.
Preparing to leave on his next trip, Ella and her father discuss her mother and the love they still feel for her.  Unfortunately for Ella, the stepmother arrives in time to listen in to most of the conversation.  The look in her eyes as she realizes that she will never be number one in his heart hardens her.   Then the worst befalls Ella when her beloved father dies while abroad.
To make their funds stretch further, all of the help are let go.  The trio expects Ella to fill in the gap, cooking and cleaning and basically waiting on them hand and foot.  As the season progresses, Ella begins sleeping by the hearth in the kitchen to escape the icy drafts of the attic.  One morning she fails to catch that her face is covered in ash.  Stepmother and the girls unleash the full power of their ascorbic wits upon the poor young girl.  They finally settle upon “Cinder” Ella as their new nickname for her.
To escape their wit, Ella goes for a ride in the woods.  She is surprised by a huge stag.  It quickly becomes evident that hunters searching for the beautiful animal.  Ella tells the stag to make a run for it and she’ll throw them off the scent.  The man who rides up is a fine example of a man.  He tells her his name is Kit and he’s an apprentice at the castle.  After some more small talk, others in the hunting party arrive and Kit must go with them.
Kit is smitten but there is a small complication.  His master is the King.  Yes, he is the Prince!  The King’s health is not good.  He wants to see his son wed before he dies.  The eligible ladies of the land (and all others) are invited to a grand ball to help the Prince meet the woman he will wed.  Since Ella managed to evade giving her name, the Prince sees that invitations go out to every eligible woman in the land.
Hearing about the Ball, Ella is so excited!  She hopes to find Kit and talk to him again!  Needless to say as we all know, Stepmother puts the kibosh on that wish, going so far as to rip the dress Ella was planning to wear.
The ghastly trio ride away from the house in their coach while Ella weeps.  She comes across a crone beside the gate who asks for a few scraps of bread or a cup of milk.  As the well-bred young lady she is, Ella dips the old lady a cup of milk.  Following her refreshment the crone begins to determine what she needs to create Ella’s carriage and attendants.  Yes, she’s Ella’s Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter)!
From changing the mice into gorgeous white horses to lizards into footmen and a goose into a driver to changing a large pumpkin and gazebo into a magnificent golden carriage, the fairy godmother performs her magic.  She then transforms the tattered dress into a gorgeous jewel-encrusted gown.  She creates amazing glass shoes for her feet.  Thankfully, she remembers to give Ella the admonition that all would revert back to their original forms at the last stroke of midnight.
The Ball is amazing, the very vision of elegance and splendor.  But for the Prince, who is dreading that he might never again see the enchanting you lady from the forest, everyone disappears once his eyes alight upon Ella.  The two ignore everyone as they walk toward each other, meeting in the middle of the dance floor.
What follows is a wonderful evening followed by the expected dash for the carriage to get home before the last stoke of the bell at midnight.  We also see a Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgård) determined to have the princess of his choice marry his liege, one he can control.
The story of the Prince’s search for the owner of the glass slipper is predictable.  We see the normal ugly, old, mean, in fact ALL of the women of the kingdom get red in the face trying to force feet into a MAGIC SLIPPER.  Sorry ladies, there is only one foot that fill fit this shoe.  Strangely enough, the very last house in the land to be tested is the home of Ella and the three ugly minded women she shares the house with.
As I said at the beginning of this story, this tale is one we all know.  We know that the two lovers are wed and live happy forever after.  The filmmakers have done an excellent job in bringing us this tale of loss, love and magic.  It is always a worthwhile use of time to watch a film that leaves you feeling a good as this one does.  My favorite scene comes when Ella forgives her stepmother.  If you were as good as our “Cinder” Ella is then you would be able to forgive her as well.
This feature is paired with a short based on the film Frozen called Frozen Fever.  It is every bit a wonderful as the feature film!
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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