Oscars 2016: Cinderella


The Film: Cinderella

The Pitch: The Kate Middleton Story

Number of Nominations: One

Which Category? Best Costume Design

Will it Win? Costume Designer Sandy Powell is competing against herself (she also designed the fabulous clothes in Carol).

She deserves to win for either film – her work in both is exquisite.

However, the double nomination plus the fact that she has won before (Shakespeare in Love; The Aviator; The Young Victoria) probably rules her out.

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Disney is, of course, in the fairytale business, and while recently the studio has sought to retell old stories in new ways (Maleficent; Frozen), with Cinderella they are on more familiar ground.

I don’t need to tell you the plot, and there are few surprises in Kenneth Branagh’s handsome, old-fashioned, occasionally charming movie about the commoner who falls for the prince.

Lily James is the heroine, doomed to a life of drudgery for her wicked stepfamily; Richard Madden is the handsome, rather bland Prince; Derek Jacobi is the King; Stellan Skarsgaard is a scheming courtier; and Helena Bonham-Carter is Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.

All of the above do their best with a script that sticks fairly close to the Disney template (kindness wins over wickedness every time) while trying to add a few contemporary twists.

But this is really Cate Blanchett’s film, and as the Wicked Stepmother she devours the scenery with aplomb while looking spectacular.

 

It isn’t anywhere near her finest or most subtle work, but who cares? This is a Disney fairytale, and everyone has a grand old time. Although there is much wickedness and cruelty, there isn’t much that will frighten smaller audience members, and much that will enchant them.

This is the third time that Sandy Powell has dressed Cate Blanchett. There are few modern actresses who can still exude old-time Hollywood glamour, and Blanchett is one of them. Perhaps that is why Powell wisely chooses to make her look like a 1940s movie vamp.

CINDERELLA

In her private life she has a great sense of fashion; on screen, she seems born to be draped in evening gowns and elegant dresses.

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Other than Blanchett, the costume design, and very nice art direction, there really isn’t much to highly recommend Cinderella. Helena Bonham-Carter’s appearance as the Fairy Godmother is too brief, and while usually Helena Bonham-Carter in anything is a good thing, here she doesn’t get to do much other than a slightly less batty, somewhat more elegant version of her kindly cat lady shtick.

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A plot involving Stellan Skarsgaard seems like it must have been written longer and much of it ended up on the cutting-room floor. The ballroom scene, while gorgeous to look at, isn’t staged especially memorably (Branagh likes to move his camera around when it should be still, and vice-versa, and the dance is choppily edited.)

No matter. This is a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. Ella befriends a family of mice, and children will no doubt appreciate the cuteness and visual splendour, and there are a couple of good jokes – mostly from the two stepsisters, played with gusto by Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger – mixed in with the lesson about courage and kindness.

A film all aspiring princesses will adore.

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Verdict: Three and a Half Glass Slippers out of Five

 

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