Set in London, but based upon the 1960s French novel by Sébastien Japrisot, Iain Softley’s Trap For Cinderella is a saucy, convoluted thriller. Following a disastrous house fire in rural France, young party girl Mickey (Tuppence Middleton) awakes back in London to find she is suffering from amnesia. Without much in the way of help, she tries to reassemble the puzzle, Memento-style, from fragments. Her intense, long-term friendship with the shy and retiring Do (Alexandra Roach) seems to offer the key, but what will it unlock? The ensuing narrative takes in a mixture of crazy aunties, grotty East London nightclubs, flashbacks, coincidences, hunky strangers, money transfers, flash forwards, expository dialogue, intimations of lesbianism, and Frances de la Tour.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with such far-fetched plot mechanics. After all, suspension of disbelief is the currency of cinema. The problem with Trap For Cinderella is that it never manages to affix the right tone to its narrative madcappery; it all feels very stilted and self-serious, when what it desperately needed was to be cranked up a notch: “There’s nothing wrong with a bit of camp!”, you feel like screaming, while doing jazz hands. Compare its understated vibe to, say, Pedro Almodovar’s dastardly, lip-lickingly OTT The Skin I Live In, or Darren Aronofsky’s delirious Black Swan. These were films that, whatever one thought of them, were fully aware of their own innate ridiculousness, and turned up the volume accordingly. As Trap For Cinderella treads wearily to its supposedly shocking conclusion, it's hard to get too excited.
That said, Softley is working here with a miniscule budget, and does a solid enough job in keeping things ticking over, injecting some Single White Female-esque menace. It’s unusual to see a clearly Nouvelle Vague-inspired thriller being produced in Britain, and the use of East London locations adds a further layer of grimy intrigue. As Mickey, Tuppence Middelton is the standout – she has the flashiest and trickiest role, which she clearly has fun with. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Kerry Fox (generally a terrific actor – see Jane Campion’s An Angel At My Table), who text messages in her performance as the villainous Julia. A solid watch overall, then, but not as fun or demanding as it should be.
Read our interview with director Iain Softley
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