Cinderella: A tasteful, treacly tale

22CP cinderella stills1   | Photo Credit: mail

Narrating on film a fairy tale that every child on planet earth has heard by age five, but without giving way to tedium, can challenge the artistic capabilities of even the most prodigious director. After all, you can’t take too many liberties with the plot or its central characters. However, recent cinematic explorations have resorted to artful devices to get around that literary limitation, such as by tweaking the story on the margins — by reframing it in more contemporary times or by giving the narrative treatment a 21st-century idiom. Others — such as Maleficent — provided a back-story that embellished the mainline plot without taking much away from the elemental classicism.

Kenneth Branagh, a Shakespearan actor-director, is high on fidelity in this retelling of Cinderella, the orphaned girl living under the harsh thumb of her evil stepmother, and Prince Charming who falls in love with her (at first sight, of course). Truth to tell, the story has morphed quite a bit since it was first narrated in the 17th century: that “once upon a time” happened quite a while ago. However, in more recent times, it has acquired a more familiar story line, which has come to be acknowledged as the core of the classic. Branagh sticks faithfully close to the script made famous by Disney’s animated version from 1950, but although we know exactly what’s going to happen— scene by syrupy scene — he manages to keep viewers sufficiently engrossed.

Genre: Romantic fantasy
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Chaplin
Storyline: A modern — and chromatically rich — retelling of the old classic fairy tale.

Branagh does it primarily by giving the film a vividness and visual splendour that virtually transports viewers into the fairy tale. Uncharacteristically for this digital era, Cinderella was shot on film, which imbues it with a touch of retro-richness. The costumes and elaborate set designs are chromatically resplendent (and yet, exceedingly easy on the eye). If it sometimes gets too treacly, it’s easily forgivable: it is after all a syrupy-sweet story.

The central characters are all familiar as stars in Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones, and play out their roles more than competently. Lily James as Cinderella is eminently lovable and has a sparkle beneath her demure manner. Richard Madden is charming enough as the Prince. But for my money, the show-stealer is Cate Blanchett, who plays the role of Lady Tremaine, the Stepmother from Hell, with fiendish felicity. In much the same way that Glenn Close did (as Cruella De Vil) in 101 Dalmatians, and Angelina Jolie did as the eponymous character in Maleficent, catty Cate sizzles with malice in every frame and provides a delightful foil to all the ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’ that permeates the rest of the characters.

Once upon a time, the feel-good romantic fairy tale of Cinderella was handed down for the amusement of every kid on planet earth. As this most recent rendition of that story bears out, this tale will live happily ever after.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 12:51:32 AM |

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