Kenneth Branagh. Well, paint me the colour of a pumpkin and find me a glass slipper. Kenneth Branagh directed this- couldn’t believe it, when his name came up at the end. Not exactly sure why, the film was competent enough, perhaps overly saccharin as you might expect, and endlessly manipulative, but yeah, turned out that Branagh directed it. I did a double-take, suddenly reconsidering the film as if his involvement offered a new perspective. Funny thing really; why should a directors name suddenly change anything at all? Maybe it was just me, but after a fairly enjoyable, undemanding piece of hokum drew to a close, Branagh’s name came up after the fade out like a big ‘Surprise!’ shouted from the tv screen.
The film was enjoyable enough- I hesitate to call it routine, it’s just a pretty faithful live-action version of the traditional fairy tale (not a whiff of Into the Woods here). Cate Blanchett was a great evil stepmother and Lily James a fairly definitive (pretty and wholesome) Cinderella; I could have perhaps done without Helena Bonham-Carter doing a fairy godmother by way of Johnny Depp (was that intentional?). The film offered few surprises but was none the worse for that – my only dislike was for some intrusive cgi, particularly in the landscapes and scene-setting shots, which looked, surprisingly, of pretty poor quality really, not helped by the usual swooping camera moves that don’t at all match the fairly steady live-action material. I could have done well without all that cgi stuff, it just kept on pulling me out of it and the sub-par quality would have been just more reason to ditch it, in my eyes. But perhaps these days studios just think audiences expect that kind of spectacle for good or ill and feel obliged to chuck it in.
Another of the festive recordings on my Tivo (Christmas doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon here at Ghost Manor), I believe this was aired on Christmas Day. I’d imagine it was a pretty perfect Christmas movie. Kudos to the BBC scheduling team.