No matter how many times Cinderella is reinvented, it will always be repackaged and repurposed time and time again. In its latest incarnation, the interpretation comes from beloved Brit Kenneth Branagh and possesses a decidedly rose-colored glasses viewpoint--counterbalanced by the extreme bitchery of Cate Blanchett, who plays the wicked stepmother, Lady Tremaine.
Written by Chris Weitz, who has worked on diverse projects ranging from Antz to American Pie to About A Boy, the story is told from a classicist's perspective. Ella (Lily James, in her first major role) is born to two loving parents who treat her like a princess--and, in her own way, she is, reigning over their country home that her father provides for through his profession as a merchant. Of course, Ella's picturesque state of existence comes to a grinding halt when her mother takes ill and dies. Before her demise, however, she instructs Ella, "Have courage and be kind." (a phrase that is indoctrinated fully into its audience by the film's end).
Taking her mother's advice to heart, Ella always does her best to see everything in a positive light--finding magic in even the simplest of pleasures (e.g. hanging out with a crew of mice, which comes off as a lot more disgusting when they're not animated). This task becomes a bit of an undertaking when her father announces his plans to remarry Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) and bring her daughters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger), to live with them in their house. At first pleased for her father, Ella is given a rude awakening at the overt cruelty of her step-family, which quickly intensifies after her father leaves for another months-long business trip.
Lady Tremaine "politely" suggests that Ella stay in the attic in order to give her stepsisters the bigger room to share. Hurt, but willing, Ella agrees, her father's return the one thing keeping her going. But alas, he never does make it back from the trip. His death gives Lady Tremaine all the license she needs to treat Ella (soon dubbed Cinderella after she gets ash all over herself from sleeping by the fire) like total shit.
Nonetheless, she stays to endure the pain for the sake of her parents, who made her promise to always love and cherish their home. But her wherewithal can only last so long in the face of her step-family's extreme sadism. From verbal abuse to imposed servitude, Cinderella can only find comfort in her animals, taking refuge in the forest on one of her horses where she encounters Kit a.k.a. Prince Charming (Richard Madden). Invigorated by this fortuitous meeting, Cinderella finds new hope in life after Kit announces to the entire kingdom that he will be holding a ball, which all ladies--common or not--are invited.
It is at this point that Cate Blanchett puts her acting skills as an icy cunt to the test, ripping Cinderella's mother's dress to pieces when she attempts to attend the ball. But it's all for the best, as this allows Cinderella's fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter, who also narrates the story) to make a cameo and save the day. By now, you shouldn't need any guidance on how the rest of story plays out, suffice it to say that the realest piece of wisdom comes at the end, with the fairy godmother noting of Cinderella revealing her true identity to the prince, "The greatest risk one can take is to show who they truly are to another person." Indeed, this is why so many people prefer to remain single in the current non-fairy tale era.