Main cast: Lily James (Ella), Richard Madden (Prince “Kit” Charming), Holliday Grainger (Anastasia), Sophie McShera (Drizella), Helena Bonham Carter (Fairy Godmother), Stellan Skarsgård (The Grand Duke), Derek Jacobi (The King), and Cate Blanchett (Lady Tremaine)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Before Cinderella begins, they show a shorter animated feature, Frozen Fever, in which Elsa attempts to give Anna the best birthday party ever, only to be struck down by cold. We learn that each time Elsa sneezes, living snowmen spew from her nostrils and mouth in physics-defying ways, and I guess this means Olaf is either Elsa’s very big booger or turd. I suppose this one can be cute, but I have developed an allergy to anything Frozen after being bombarded with all those images and those dolls and that fucking song that I spend the entire duration of this thing in a state of half-cringe.
And then, begins Cinderella. I’m sure you all know the plot by now. Ella’s parents are perfect, she is perfect, and then her mother died – ladies don’t share their fathers even with their mothers in stories like this, one of them has to die – and her father reveals that he is going to marry some woman who turns out to be such a complete bitch. And then the father dies, Ella becomes the house slave, and she meets this prince, who falls in love with her and eventually the Fairy Godmother shows up to give her a new dress and send her to the ball. The prince falls in love with her, she then runs away at midnight, drops a shoe… oh, please, you know the story, don’t make me repeat that crap.
In this one, Chris Weitz has imbued into the script an extra dose of brain cell bleach levels of corn and vapid sentiments, and Kenneth Branagh directs the movie like he’s living out some 18th century version of femininity propaganda, in which female virtue and female infantilization are one and the same. Since she was young, Ella believes that she and animals are best friends – because her mother told her so – and therefore, she doesn’t mind being treated like a slave as long as she has her CGI rats to play with. She even shares what little food she has with them – which explains how she manages to keep that slim waist, I suppose. When she sneaks out and bumps into the prince, she berates him for wanting to kill a stag, because she has looked into the stag’s eyes and they are now best friends, you see. When a former staff asks Ella why she remains in the house to be ill-treated by her stepmother, Ella says that it’s because she has promised her now dead parents that she would cherish and love the house forever. (Of course, when she marries the prince, it’s off to the palace she goes – so much for wanting to hump the house for all eternity.)
This one is so full of it. Ella’s portrayal as this virtuous girl makes her seem like borderline mentally handicapped, as she just smiles and nods like a stupid bobblehead when people fling poo her way. She is supposed to be this pure and kind soul that loves everyone, but her ability to be a martyr and still forgive her tormentors make her either the biggest imbecile in the land or the perverse notion of what men like Mr Brannagh and Mr Weitz expect “good women” to be. Ella is humorless, masochistic, and dumb – her kindness is self-crippling in nature, and yet I’m supposed to cheer for this worthless wretch to marry the prince. And yes, Ella’s happy ending hinges on her getting married and, thus, is lifted out of her self-imposed martyrdom.
Lily James doesn’t have much to do here other than to play this creepy deranged bimbo with scary teeth. Richard Madden’s face has more wrinkles than grace, and I have come across kitchen sponges that ooze more sex appeal than his Prince Charming. Helena Bonham Carter… of course she shows up here. I think it is mandatory that she must appear in every movie that allows her to wear a corset of some kind. Cate Blanchett plays the bitch, but her role is so over the top that it is hard to take her seriously.
There is a movie called Ever After that came out in 1998. Another adaptation of the Cinderella story, that one features a lovable feisty version of a heroine who has a good reason to stay with her nasty stepmother, a stepmother played deliciously by Anjelica Huston who has some depths to her character, and Dougray Scott plays a far more attractive Prince Charming than the prune-skinned Mr Madden. That movie makes this cloying flick redundant in every way, and I recommend watching that one instead of this thinly-veiled agitprop calling for women to be submissive and silent in the face of adversity.