Cinderella & Mrs. Cooper
In post-war Rome, Italy 13 year old Aurora (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) is not only a gifted pianist but the daughter of famous conductor Valerio (Massimo Poggio). But her happy life takes a turn for the worse when her father decides to marry Irene (Natalia Wörner), the housekeeper who as a widow herself has two daughters. And things get worse when her father passes as Irene turns the family villa into a hotel and forces Aurora to work as a maid whilst swindling her out of her inheritance. But sometime later with Aurora having grown into an attractive twenty year old things start to change firstly when the handsome Sebastian (Flavio Parenti) and his family move next door and then mysterious American Mrs. Cooper (Ruth Maria Kubitschek) shows up who finds Aurora especially charming.
I will stop my synopsis there and say that "Cenerentola" is also known by the name of "Cinderella" and is an Italian version of the classic fairytale but one which has been embellished and changed in the making. Now whilst I say it is as Italian movie the version which I watched was in English and not a poorly dubbed version as for the most the voices and words match the lips of the stars. And I should also say that "Cenerentola" was originally a two part mini-series when watched as one comes in at a meaty 203 minutes, yes nearly three and a half hours but trust me it is three and half hours well spent.
So as I said "Cenerentola" is an embellished version of the classic Cinderella and as such most of the basic storyline is easy to see with the first half of the movie being the build up to the masquerade ball with Aurora meeting her handsome Prince, having to leave by midnight and of course leaving a slipper behind, a sparkly slipper rather than a glass one in this case. But this first half which stays quite loyal to the classic fairytale introduces some variations on the story from Aurora meeting the handsome Sebastian when she was just 13 and falling for him but then he left with no notice. And more importantly it introduces us to the mysterious Mrs. Cooper the classic fairy godmother character as she helps Aurora prepare for the masquerade ball but there is a twist to her character.
Then there is the second half and again you can see the traditional Cinderella story very clearly as we have Sebastian trying to work out who the sparkly slipper belonged to but it embellishes it with an almost rom-com element as he is due to marry someone else in order to secure a business deal for his father. It is a nice integration of the old traditional story with some nice contemporary touches whilst set in post war Italy so it does feel too modern. And there are more embellishments than just that as there are additional subplots from Aurora being a talented musician to the whole Mrs. Cooper sub plot.
But the embellishments to the traditional Cinderella story are not the only impressive thing about "Cenerentola" as director Christian Duguay has crafted this beautiful movie which capitalizes on some beautiful Italian scenery but never goes too far to make it too artsy, keeping pretty but simple. He also manages to keep the storyline flowing so that whilst a three and a half movie may sound daunting it moves so effortlessly that it never feels like you are being dragged through a slow movie which has been drawn out. And there is this wonderful touch of humour but not comedy especially when it comes to Irene and Aurora's step sisters as they are amusing but never purposefully funny which is the same for Aurora's friends the cook and the waitress who are there to support her. The only thing which I felt was wrong was the less than subtle "Roman Holiday" scenes as we have Aurora and Sebastian riding around Rome on a Vespa, it was too obvious for my liking.
Now as I mentioned the version of "Cenerentola" which I watched was in English and I am not sure whether the actors voiced there own parts or were dubbed or what as I am sure originally this was an Italian movie but what ever for the most it works. There are the occasional characters where you think that voice doesn't quite fit but the central characters are spot on be it Natalia Wörner as the evil Irene or Flavio Parenti as Sebastian. But the stars of "Cenerentola" are two attractive women with Vannessa Hessler impressing as Aurora and Ruth Maria Kubitschek as Mrs. Cooper. These two have such great chemistry together that there is something quite touching about the initial friendship and Kubitschek has one of those faces and ability to use it which speaks volumes with out having to say a single thing.
What this all boils down to is that the prospect of watching "Cenerentola" is daunting because at 203 minutes it is a big chunk of time but it is well worth it. The storyline is a clever reworking of the classic Cinderella with great settings, good acting and a real charm about it which draws you and makes you want to keep watching.