Nick Dear’s reimagining of Cinderella relocates the story to mid twentieth century Britain. Young Zezolla (Marcella Plunkett) tangles with her new stepmother, Claudette (Kathleen Turner), an evil woman who has the unsuspecting Martin (David Warner) firmly in her grasp.
Zezolla, nicknamed Cinderella after she’s given the task of stoking the coal boilers of her father’s sprawling mansion, also has to contend with Claudette’s two scheming sisters – Goneril and Regan (Katrin Cartlidge and Lucy Punch) A fairy godmother would be handy, but surely that would be expecting too much …
Whilst Cinderella draws much of its inspiration from the original fairy tale, it also delights in mixing and matching elements from various other stories. King Lear is an obvious inspiration – the names of Claudette’s daughters and the way that Zezolla becomes estranged from her father (in true Lear style) are the most obvious nods.
Kathleen Turner adds a touch of Hollywood glamour to the production. Bedecked in a series of eye-catching costumes, Claudette is depicted as a top class schemer. Although briefly disappointed when she discovers that her new husband might be aristocratic but is also pretty much broke, she soon recovers. Once she’s managed to dispose of him (poison should do the trick) she’ll be free to remarry and if one of her daughters could snag a young and handsome Prince, all the better ….
Karen Cartlidge and Lucy Punch as Goneril and Regan are a hoot. Just as wicked and narcissistically self-obsessed as their mother, they delight in taunting their new, downtrodden sister-in-law. An early scene, where the pair – cavorting on their bed in stockings – ponder whether they should corrupt the innocent Zezolla is nicely done.
As for Zezolla – or Cinderella as she becomes known – she’s deftly brought to life by Marcella Plunkett. Although this was an early screen credit for Plunkett, she doesn’t seem at all fazed by sharing the screen with vastly more experienced actors.
The casting for Cinderella was very strong. David Warner has a tricky job as Martin (it’s difficult to believe that anybody could be quite as dim and trusting as he is) but Warner’s a class actor who just about gets away with it. Leslie Phillips has a nice role as Felim, Martin’s faithful family retainer. Although it does seem a bit harsh that a man as old as he is has been given the job of stoking the boilers ….
Felim acts as Cinderella’s confidant, which is perfect casting for Phillips who twinkles away very appealingly. When advising her about the pleasures and pitfalls of love, he lets slip that he has form in this matter – most notably Mab (Jane Birkin).
Another strong addition to the cast, Mab occupies the role of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, although she – like a great deal of the story – is far removed from the traditional image. Living in an underground cave, Mab’s delightfully disconnected (telling Cinders at one point that she can’t rustle her up a pair of shoes – she never bothers with them herself since shoes are only for people who don’t like the look of their feet). Several other familiar faces pass by later on, such as Sharon Maughan, Michael Medwin, Nickolas Grace and Jenny Tomasin.
Prince Valliant (Gideon Turner) enters the picture mid-way through. Far removed from the conventional Prince Charming, he’s instead portrayed as a bored and idle lounger. I’m not sure whether Turner’s playing is supposed to be off-kilter or if it’s just a case of bad acting. I suspect the former, which is strengthened by the memorable moment when the Prince elects to serenade the alluring Cinderella with a rock song and an energetic guitar solo. He does later roam the Kingdom (albeit on a motorbike) with a slipper, looking for a foot that will fit it – so at least in that instance he does conform to the traditional story.
With a woozy, non-naturalistic feel, Cinderella doesn’t outstay its welcome at 83 minutes. It may be fairly short, but is decidedly sweet and – thanks to the first-rate cast – is something of a treat. Recommended.
Cinderella is released on the 21st of May 2018 by Simply Media, RRP £14.99. It can be ordered directly from Simply here (quoting ARCHIVE10 will apply a 10% discount).