Once upon a time, in the year 1697 a Frenchman, Charles Perrault wrote “The Glass Slipper”; in 1812 The Brothers Grimm elaborated upon the tale of beautiful, orphaned “Ella”, relegated to the status of servant by her heinous stepmother and her two wretched daughters. So, for centuries this bewitching fable has touched the hearts and imaginations of all who have ever dreamt of being more than they are; see in the mirror a visage promising beauty, fairness; the possibility that stardust fantasies, no matter how remote, could be actualized.
Director Kenneth Branagh with a sorcerer’s wand, sprinkled his own magical, rejuvenating dust on the lovely, lonely, indomitable “Cinderella”; the finest, most entertaining, illuminating version I have ever viewed; Lily James is ethereally enchanting as maiden Ella; she promised her parents to forever be kind; her kindness is never mistaken for weakness; regardless of the vicissitudes, her inner fortitude and self-assurance is engrained; impossible to dislike, her dignity and goodness earn insurmountable respect, never pity.
Richard Madden, as handsome a “Prince” there ever was, is vibrantly charming, intelligent, a devoted son; the scenes between the “King” (always incomparable Derek Jacobi) resonate with respect and deep familial love; he is a man justified in his birthright; a man who would, and should be King.
Cate Blanchett shrewdly, presciently cast as the evil “Stepmother” is the mettle of the movie; she is regally rapacious, with a waist to match Cinderella’s; a viper, whose sole mission is to marry one of her dimwitted, hugely-hoofed daughters to the Prince; Blanchett, wisely reins in the temptation to overdramatize the role; her subtlety superbly keeps her within the boundaries of believability.
Helena Bonham Carter, slightly grotesque, as the “Fairy Godmother” instigates the sublime transformation of a pumpkin and greenhouse residents into a golden chariot and its entourage; Cinderella emerges, shimmering in a blue gown, gauzily gorgeous, floats into the ballroom where she and the Prince, meld their deserved destinies in a thrilling, spine-prickling example of “poetry in motion”.