FlixChatter Review: Cinderella (2015)

CinderellaPosterGrowing up watching Disney fairy tale movies, I have to admit Cinderella wasn’t my favorite heroine. Over the years though, as there are more and more adaptations of this quintessential underdog story (more so than any other Disney “princesses” it seems), the more I appreciate the animated classic. Lately the cinematic trend is reinvention, giving a classic tale a new twist or perspective, such as Snow White & the Huntsman and Maleficent, and so naturally I thought we’d see the same thing with Cinderella. Well, it turns out that this film stayed true to its classic story, you could even say it paid tribute to the animated film, with some surprises thrown in. But by going the conventional route doesn’t mean it’s dull and boring, in fact the opposite is true. There’s something so lively and refreshing about Kenneth Branagh‘s vision that even some of its most sentimental moments aren’t without charm.

Being that it’s the origin story of Cinderella, the movie begins with young Ella whose blissful existence is cut short when her dotting mother suddenly fell ill. Before she passed away, she instilled in her daughter to ‘have courage and be kind,’ a life motto young Ella takes to heart. And so, as life kept coming at her with one terrible blow after another, especially after the arrival of her stepmother and two step-sisters, Ella never gives up hope. I was skeptical at first about Lily James‘ casting in the titular role, but I quickly warmed up to her. There’s a pleasant countenance about her that makes her believable as a benevolent and sweet-tempered girl equipped with inner strength to face the cruelty inflicted upon her by her new *family.* Instead of running away from her problems, she choose to endure.

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Ella’s no damsel in distress either. I love how the sweet and swoon-worthy meet-up with the dashing Prince, who refers to himself as Kit to hide his true identity, reveals her independent spirit. “Just because it’s done doesn’t mean it’s what should be done,” she tells Kit in protest of him hunting deer for sport. The prince was immediately smitten by her, perhaps he’s also impressed that she rides her horse without a saddle! Richard Madden effortlessly steals Ella’s heart, and every maiden in the audience, with his impossible good looks and almost indecent sex appeal. As if the filmmakers weren’t sure of that, they had to outfit him in those distractingly tight white pants! I don’t know why they need to digitally enhanced his blue eyes though, I mean he’s already hunky enough with his eyes the way God made ’em!

Cinderella_PrinceCharming cinderella_prince_firstmeetIn any case, I like that he fell for her whilst Ella’s still dressed as a maid, though I actually think she’s the most attractive this way, so fresh-faced and full of life. Unlike the animated version, the Prince also gets a back-story here, and the father/son relationship depiction is quite moving. The Ella-Kit meet-up is my favorite scene of the entire movie! Yes, more so than the entire ball scene or even the transformation scene. In fact, I’m not too fond of Cinderella’s look for the ball — her hair is huge, the ball gown is huge, it’s just overwhelming. Overall there’s more chemistry between her and the Prince in that brief meet-up.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be Cinderella without the wicked stepmother and Cate Blanchett is an absolute delight to watch in the role. Looking as stunning and regal as ever, the great Cate was scene stealing all the way through with her elegant icy-ness. The Aussie thespian is obviously having fun with the role, there’s a twinkle in her eye and sense of mischief as she relish in being bad.

Holliday Granger and Sophie McShera are ok as the two vile stepsisters, they’re a bit over the top at times, yet not nearly as memorable as Cate was even when she was standing still. It’s fun seeing Helena Bonham Carter being the comic relief as the fairy godmother and the film’s narrator. Derek Jacobi adds Shakespearean gravitas as the Prince’s ailing father, whilst Ben Chaplin is affecting as Cinderella’s doting father. In attempt to making the cast a little more diverse, Branagh cast Nonso Anozie as Captain (who’s in his previous movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and the guests at the ball are racially-diverse.

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The production design is really something to behold. This is easily one of the best looking movie I’ve seen in a while, and I’m not just talking about the beautiful cast. The costume design by Sandy Powell is simply amazing, especially Cate’s jewel-toned, richly-embroidered dresses, blending 1940s with 19th century style. Everyone’s talking about Cinderella’s gorgeous ball dress – and Lily James’ teeny-tiny waist – but I think Cate’s outfits are equally breathtaking to look at. Oh and those glass slippers… well, that’s fairy tale for ya, the funniest bit was when the fairy godmother say they’d be comfortable, ha! Apparently they’re made of real Swarovski crystals fit only for mannequins. So the scene of Cinderella having those on is made possible by the magic of CGI.

Chris Weitz‘s script might seem simple and conventional, but it’s quite challenging to somehow make the story fresh without making it unnecessarily dark or edgy just for the sake of it. I’ve been a longtime fan of Patrick Doyle‘s gorgeous music and Branagh’s longtime collaborator once again delivered! The music fits the genre perfectly, it has that elegant, sweepingly lush feel to it, but also with a bit of whimsy.

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But the biggest kudos has to be given to Kenneth Branagh and his impeccable directing style. He somehow made something *old* feels new again. I think it starts with his vision for the main characters, with an empowered Cinderella who, despite being mistreated, remains true to her moral principles. In this article, “[Branagh] likened it to the nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi.” Ok so that might’ve been a bit of a stretch, but I get the point. The love story feels richer and more emotionally involving because you believe there’s more than just the obvious physical attraction. Branagh’s quoted in the article as saying, “When you watch this film, you see Cinderella is such an amazing woman. My biggest thing was how do I create a man that is worthy of her?” I came away from the movie thinking that Cinderella rescues the Prince just as much as he rescues her.

I enjoyed this movie so much I just might see it again on the big screen as it’s such a visual treat. But I wouldn’t say it’s style over substance, there’s a nice balance of drama, humor, and even action to please the young and the young-at-heart. Though the movie is infused with such an infectious sense of optimism with its bright, lush colors and lavish set pieces, there are genuine poignant moments to keep it grounded. The scene when Ella receives news of her father’s sudden passing is one of those scenes that made me tear up.

If you’re on the fence about this one, I’d say give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised. I think I’d get the Blu-ray as I could see myself enjoying this for years to come.

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Have you seen Cinderella? Well, did you like it more or less than I did?

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50 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Cinderella (2015)

  1. It’s an alright movie. Sometimes too old-fashioned and simple, but still enjoyable enough for all to watch and possibly enjoy. Nice review.

  2. I thought about seeing this but I wasn’t sure if I was willing to risk my well-being to be surrounded by little girls being excited by that Frozen short.

    1. Ahah well, in my screening there were quite a few excited little girls. The one right behind me kept kicking my seat in excitement, seems that they enjoyed both the Frozen short and the movie 🙂

    1. Ahah well see, that’s how I feel about Secretary. There are things that simply aren’t our cup of tea. So I’ll give you a pass on this one 😉

  3. Irene McKenna

    What a beautiful post! I want to take my 11 y/o daughter to see this in the theater, so I am glad to hear it’s so good. And such a wonderful cast.

    1. Awww, thank you Irene, it was fun writing this, though it did take me a while. I think you & your young daughter would enjoy this. There were quite a few families in my screening and they seemed to have a good time.

  4. I’m glad you like it Ruth. Love Kenneth Branagh even with his hit-and-miss history as director. He’s always been a better actor, but I admire him all the same. I liked the Danish-depressing- television series he is affiliated with, “Wallander”. I liked his Thor and Hamlet and the terrible Frankenstein he did a decade ago with Robert DeNiro. I no-doubt will appreciate Cinderella if for only the production design. In other words, Kenneth is a guilty pleasure. Kate, well, I’d watch it just because she was in it. Nice review, Ruth!

    1. Hi Cindy! I haven’t seen all that Branagh directed, but I really like Hamlet and Thor, so I think he’s definitely a talented filmmaker as well as actor. I think you’d appreciate this one, and Cate never disappoints! Oh btw, Branagh is also gonna be directing the stage production of Romeo & Juliet w/ the actors playing Cinderella & the Prince! If only I could see that live!

  5. So, it’s true, it’s a long post, and we’re on the same side on this! Being loyal to the source doesn’t mean it’s gonna be dull or else, it’s somewhat more enlightening. And, oh, that distracting white pants lol glad Madden didn’t wear it on the Red Wedding.

    1. Ahah, I wasn’t lying about the post length 😉 The movie wasn’t perfect but there are really a lot to like. It’s always challenging to adapt such a classic story, so kudos to Branagh & team for pulling it off. Ahahaha, well if he wore those pants in GoT he would’ve died sooner I think!

  6. Hi, Ruth. I think you’ve persuaded me to check this out, as I was on the fence about it. I’m getting back into my fairy tale adaptations at the moment: Once Upon a Time is my current guilty pleasure!

    1. Hi Claire! Do give it a shot, esp if you’ve been enjoying OUAT. This one is very faithful to the original tale, but yet still feels quite fresh to me.

    1. Hello Myriam, welcome to FC! I have to say I’m not too fond of the CGI blue dress, but it’s a small quibble for me as there are lots of things I do enjoy about this movie.

  7. Stu

    I was listening to an interview with Branagh the other day and started entertaining the idea of watching this at the cinema, but I think I’m in the same boat as Mark above. I’ll pass on this, but I might one day give it a try at home, as you suggest. Did you know Branagh is going to be making Macbeth with Martin Scorsese?

    1. Hi Stu! Do give it a rent if watching it on the big screen doesn’t appeal to you, I think you might be pleasantly surprised. No I hadn’t heard about Branagh doing Macbeth w/ Scorsese, wow that’s something I got to see! I did hear that Branagh will be directing Lily James & Richard Madden in the stage production of Romeo & Juliet next year.

  8. I’m definitely on board with you, Ruth. While I think you liked it a bit more than I did, I was actually really surprised by how much I enjoyed watching this. I wish they had done something to make it a little more original, but can still appreciate how Branagh respected the story so much. My sister and I enjoyed it quite a bit. 🙂

    1. Hi Billy! Hey I’m glad you saw it and enjoyed it, I have a feeling your sister probably enjoyed it more than you did 😉 I think Branagh did a lot of stuff right, and he had the right cast to support his vision.

  9. Such a beautiful review! I keep hearing how incredible this is. My daughters saw it without me, and I was disappointed because I actually wanted to see this one! They loved it, obviously. I can’t wait to see this one for myself.

    Cate Blanchett looks delicious!

    1. Thanks! I think this movie will be around for some time in the cinema, it’s worth seeing on the big screen as it’s so beautiful to look at. The great Cate never disappoints, but thankfully the rest of the cast are pretty good, too.

  10. Tom

    Great to read your enthusiasm for this Ruth, and it’s really remarkable to see a film actually sticking to the core values and the tones and the styles of what made what came before so special. Basically what I’m saying is, I’m surprised this didn’t become Cinderella 2015. You’ve just got to give Kenneth Branagh that credit!

    1. Hi there Tom! Yeah I think it’s a challenging project because it’s tough to find the balance of being faithful to the story but also making it feel fresh for new audiences, y’know. But I think Branagh got the job done. He’s now gonna be working w/ Scorsese on a Macbeth adaptation!

  11. Wasn’t the hugest fan of this one, but it was very decent and entertaining. Loved Blanchett and she looked incredible. Lily did a good job but I don’t think she’s pretty enough to be Cinderella. On the other hand, Richard Madden is offensively good-looking. Oh my.

    1. Hi Fernando! You didn’t think Lily was pretty enough as Cinderella? I thought she’s quite lovely, but I guess it’s all subjective. But yeah, Madden is criminally gorgeous it should be illegal, ahah!

      1. Well, I mean, she’s obviously beautiful but I didn’t think she was stunning enough for a real-life Disney princess. Maybe it was because her eyebrows were so distracting! haha

        1. Apparently she auditioned for one of the stepsisters but ended up getting the main role. I think she’s much better looking than Anna Kendrick as Cinderella in Into The Woods.

            1. Yep indeed! And Madden was even more of an eye candy than Chris Pine, who’s already incredibly gorgeous. I hate that they digitally enhanced his eyes though, I mean, it’s kind of insulting and unnecessary!

              1. I’m partial to Chris Pine, who I’ve had a crush on since Just My Luck, but yeah Madden is incredibly gorgeous and he didn’t need any help in the pretty eyes department.

                1. I have to say that I was swooning over Pine in that Prince Charming garb, and I LOVE his ‘Agony’ rendition. But as you know, I always have a penchant for the Scot and Madden wins by a small margin for his adorable Scottish accent 😉

  12. Nonso Anozie was also on Thrones, so there are two Thrones accents here 🙂 I had the biggest smile on my face during this movie, so charming and unlike other remaginings of fairy tales it looked lovely and didn’t feel like a total cash grab

    1. Oh I didn’t know Anozie is in GoT too, and there two from Downton so it’s quite a TV reunion in the cast then. Glad you enjoyed this film too, Margaret, it’s really a sweet & charming movie, Branagh did an astonishing job here and of course miss Blanchett is always wonderful to watch!

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  14. I didn’t enjoy it as much as you did (3/5), but I did like it. Blanchett was enjoyable, and it was a sweet movie overall. Though, the costumes were almost too loud for me.

    1. I hear ya about the costumes, I actually think the blue ball gown in the poster is my least favorite. Like you said it’s so loud and overwhelming. But there are enough stuff I love about it that it actually beats my expectations. And of course Richard Madden is so swoon-worthy as the Prince 😉

  15. Wonderful review Ruth. I loved the costumes and Blanchett’s were my favourite too, she’s the epitome of glamorous in every single scene. Have to say Cinderella’s blue ball gown was my least favourite look, but her wedding dress was stunning. I’ll probably be getting this one on blu-ray too, it’s such a treat to watch.

    1. Hi Natalie! Yeah, Blanchett looks ravishing here & she wore those gorgeous costumes well. Yeah I don’t like the blue ball gown either, I also don’t like her hair in that scene. Can’t wait to watch this again!

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