Kenneth Branaugh has made two of my least favorite movies of the last ten years. Match his heavy, uninspired hand with Disney’s recent need to “reinvent” their classic characters and I’d say this is the least excited I’ve been about a film since I’ve started writing for this blog.
I don’t need to ever see a traditional imagining of a classic story ever again. I never need to see one of our national written treasures – the Hamlets, the Red Riding Hoods, the Grapes of Wrath – portrayed as originally written. We’ve come so far in our abilities to make films and instead of pushing the envelopes of what our films can be, we’ve regressed into making slack-jawed word-for-word adaptations of our prized texts. Cinderella, as directed by Kenneth Branaugh, is the definition of a traditional text being treated as such. This is Cinderella (Lily James from Downton Abbey) as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, scarily skinny, white girl in a blue dress, who with the help of her fairy godmother (Helena Bohnam Carter) must win the heart of her Prince. A Prince (Richard Madden from Game of Thrones) with a granite-jaw, a cod-piece and the bright blue eyes of a serial killer. This is Cinderella where everything you’ve ever seen happen in any version of Cinderella ever happens. It is a moment-for-moment adaptation of the Disney cartoon of the 1940s, and it is both dull and near offensive in its lack of originality. If you want the story of Cinderella that you’ve grown up with, the one with the crystal slipper and the blue dress and the pumpkin cart and mice and so and so forth (which I really do imagine a lot of you do) then this is very much the film for you. If you want a film that looks at our fairy tales and tries to apply any sort of modern context to them, one that uses a term like “classic” to hide the word “boring”, a film that will continue to impress upon your children that the face of a prince and princess are always white – then this is the film for you. I’m not asking for steampunk Cinderella, I’m not asking for manga-Cinderella, or Quentin Tarantino’s take on the glass-slippered starlet – I just want whomever, inevitably, picks up this property next to think, “Maybe there’s a different angle here.” There might be an argument that in a time when irony and snark are so often beaten over our heads, that a film that earnestly approaches its subject is a good thing. I just don’t think that earnestness and interesting and original filmmaking are mutually exclusive subjects.
I spent most of this film vacillating between a sort of forced hibernation and looking at the little girl next to me who was leaned forward in her chair, head perched on her hands, absolutely loving the shit out of this film. It’s not a film for me, but that little girl was truly enchanted.
The Lesson Pt. 2:
Cate Blanchett is fantastic in this film as the evil stepmother. She’s vicious, wily and seething with evil, and every moment she was on screen I could almost convince myself that I was enjoying the film.