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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Cinderella

March 22nd, 2015 by Conor ONeill Comments

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Cinderella (PG)
Running time: 105 min
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett & Richard Madden

A cynical 38-year-old stumbles from bed to shower, gets dressed and foils his way to a cinema. Don’t forget, I can’t forget, this is the day after Saint Paddy’s. Hangover slowly evaporating after a couple cups of coffee, black dressed, hair still messed, caressed and blessed, I walk down Dublin Road to watch Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the much adored fairy tale of Cinderella. And what a hangover cure it is.

Switching myself from hung-over sandwich of death to newly formed blissful kid again, a quite startling Frozen Fever short packs, picks, pricks and traps my mind to a new day, with all its clapping and trappings conversing in between the bewitched and the body’s twitching I find myself writing note after note. Branagh, who has delivered a few films now, has Disney’s budget behind him… and with that comes a certain amount of pressure to deliver the goods. Can he live up to it? Certainly.


Meet Ella, a thing of beauty, with her mother’s and her father’s love, she enjoys an idyllic childhood, full of comfort, security and the pure words from her mother ‘Have courage and be kind’. The childhood Ella turns into a beautiful young woman, namely Lily James, still full of the love of life, love and all of the above. She talks to mice – more of them later – loves laughter from the rafters and, most importantly, Magic. Mother dies from an unknown condition, father (Ben Chaplin) marries another and so begins Ella’s down-fall from Ella to Cinders. With the two most pretty – hey this is Disney after all – ugly sisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Grizella (Sophie McShera) run by their mother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), the most mercenary woman to star on the silver screen.

We all know the story from here… mice turn into horses, pumpkin to coach, the adorable narrator and Hairy Good Father, sorry, Fairy God Mother – their words not mine – enters Helena Bonham Carter as the saviour of young Ella. Magic and hope is all she’s got.

Kit (Derek Jacobi), the rightful king in waiting, meets Ella during a hunt and is spell-bound by her beauty and kindness. She, thinking he is just an apprentice at the palace, is awestruck by his modesty and good looks, but beyond her life as a skivvy, she sees no hope.

Dressing herself to the much welcomed Ball, Ella, Cinders, Cinderella finds herself shot down by her stepmother’s cruelty, but kindness and courage and fairy god-mother come to the rescue. A riveting scene occurs, one that will stay in your mind for a long while; mice, a goose and lizards shall take the beauty to the ball. And she explodes on the scene like dynamite, leaving Kit and his failing father dumbstruck by her beauty and charm. The Kingdom is small and threatened by others, meaning the young heir to the throne should marry not for love but political gain. Romance, however, gets in the way. The beauty must be found. Whose foot will fit the glass slipper?

Locked up and filled with memories of the night, Cinders retires to her attic home, unaware the prince is searching for her… only her sweet voice will come to her aid as the prince seeks his bride. We all know the ending, the Titanic sinks, Jesus gets crucified and Cinders gets her man. Happy ever after and all that.

Kids, especially girly girls, will love this movie. Their dutiful parents not so much. With kids’ movies these days being choc-a-bloc with innuendo and adult asides thrown in, Branagh fails to pop his head above the parapet and take the odd much needed risk. Obviously I’m not the target audience here, but I’m left somewhat disappointed by the lack of verve. I think this remaking will have a rather short shelf-life. It’s not a Disney classic, but it is a good movie.

If I was eight-years-old and was composed of XX chromosomes I’d rate this five stars out of five. But to an adult audience it deserves three stars out of five.


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Conor O'Neill is at times a playwright and a qualified journalist. He has worked for the Belfast Telegraph, Portadown Times and South Belfast Advertiser. He also contributes to various online e-zines, specialising in theatre, gig reviews and other cultural events. If you were to ask him what he does, he will say 'I'm functioning'... that's a lie. Best suited to pressure and deadlines, O'Neill thrives on the moment, the passion and the thrill of now, he's only happy when he's watching or reviewing a play.

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