TRAP FOR CINDERELLA Review: This Glass Slipper Doesn’t Fit
In addition to reviewing new theatrical releases at this site, as well as the latest DVD offerings over at DVD Verdict, I’ve decided to start cruising Netflix for titles that are new to the US. This affords me the flexibility to watch something new if I happen to have the time between other commitments (something that is often difficult to predict or schedule). I did this earlier this year with The Price of Gold and Mitt, and I’m back now with a film originally released in the UK in 2013, now making its stateside Netflix debut in Arpil 2014. Netflix classifies this film as a thriller.
I do not.
Trap For Cinderella tells the story of Mickey and Do (rhymes with ‘dough’ and is short for Domenica), once-close childhood friends who were separated when an incident occurred that drove a wedge between their families forever. Their paths to adulthood diverged greatly.
The affluent Mickey (Tuppence Middleton) is a fashion model, living the nightclub nightlife with her boyfriend Jake (Aneurin Barnard). Conversely, Do (Alexandra Roach) works in a bank and lives alone, paycheck to paycheck.
Fate brings them together when Do sees Mickey in the bank and they rekindle their friendship. Do wants more than that, but fate tears them apart again when an explosion at a vacation home kills the mousey banker and leaves the model scarred and suffering from amnesia. As she recovers, Mickey pours through Do’s diary to try to learn exactly what might have happened.
Oh sure, it sounds like I spoiled a major plot-point in Trap For Cinderella, but I can assure you that I didn’t; the Death of Do occurs at the film’s open. And honestly, even if I had spoiled anything, it wouldn’t make a difference because the film is a messy collection of half-executed ideas thrown together with the hope that two of them might stick together to form one complete thing.
The film first suggests that it will be one of those slow-boiling thrillers where the amnesiac doesn’t know who to trust and gradually discovers things on her own until some giant climactic reveal at the end. It half-does this. Mickey is an amnesiac, but rather than trust no one, she immediately (and implicitly) trusts Julia (Kerry Fox). Julia is there for her through her entire recovery, and can best be described as something of a woman-Friday to Mickey’s Aunt Elinor (Frances de la Tour), the woman who assumed custody of Mickey when her parents were killed. (Note: Mickey’s parents being killed means absolutely nothing.) Mickey also immediately trusts Jake. You can tell she trusts him because even thought she doesn’t remember him, she has sex with him not soon after “reuniting” with him.
This early action suggests that a level of eroticism might permeate the film, but whatever the filmmakers try to generate never gets warmer than HBO on the thermometer; there is no Cinemax-grade heat in this film. There are a few shots of a topless Mickey, that one onscreen sex scene with Jake and a later one with him offscreen – that is only known because Mickey is a screamer and the session is interrupted by an annoyed and jealous Do, who is in the next room.
Ah, Do. That love for Mickey and jealousy of Jake suggests the potential for some psychotic third-wheel interference, but Do turns out to be the dullest jealous lesbian wannabe girlfriend I’ve ever seen. Rather than make any kind of significant move on Mickey, she positions herself for Mickey to make a move on her, and when Mickey takes off with Jake (or another man later in the film), Do just stands there, all wounded. It’s like watching a 12-year-old boy get rejected at a middle-school dance. (Do is still enough of an annoyance, however, to drive Jake to dump Mickey because she and Do are attached at the hip as BFFs.)
Without a thrilling build-up, body heat, or psychotic action, all that’s left, really, is atmosphere, and director Iain Softley simply doesn’t have the eye for stunning visuals or the knack to create an overall sense of suspense. He tries, but a few Kodak-moment stills and some dramatic pauses do not a visual thriller make.
Ultimately, the story’s core problem is that it is told mostly in huge chunks of flashback. These long segments might offer a lot of backstory (too much, really, and most of it superfluous), but they don’t lend to understanding how Mickey handles learning what she is learning.
All of this is made worse by preposterous plot holes; wooden, two-dimensional characters; a motive that is an afterthought; and twists-of-convenience coupled with the mother of all cheats late in the film (Softley, here as screenwriter and basing this on Sébastien Japrisot‘s novel, clearly wrote himself into a corner). Even the title (based on its cinematic execution here) makes no sense whatsoever. Only the final twist/conclusion is satisfying, and even that is marred by a brief yet senseless epilogue.
If Trap For Cinderella were the least bit erotic, it would be a solid erotic thriller, if it were the least bit thrilling. Or solid.