Trap For Cinderella review

Starting with a bang and ending with a fairly muted whimper, if you experience a sense of déjà vu akin to its heroine while viewing Iain Softley’s new film Trap For Cinderella, don’t worry, remain calm. You’re probably just vaguely mis-remembering Shattered, Wolfgang Petersen’s twisty, turny, hysterically overwrought, cod-Hitchcockian 1991 thriller in which amnesiac car accident victim Tom Berenger stumbles around trying to remember who he is (and face it, amnesiac doofus is a role Tom Berenger was born to play) while Greta Scacchi rubs herself against the furniture like an unspayed moggy. Mix in a little Single White Female-style obsession and some breathless Sapphic desire and hey, presto, you’ve got Trap For Cinderella.

Based on a novel by France’s answer to Graham Greene, Trap For Cinderella is yet another variation on the hoary old amnesia thriller we all know and love where the protagonist receives a bump on the noggin and gets that nice, cinematic type of amnesia where they can’t quite remember who they are, who to trust or that deep, dark secret they’ve buried (that the plot coincidentally revolves around) rather than the type of amnesia where the head injury results in the proagonist being reduced to a drooling, shitting shell of a human being, forced to reacquire even the most basic motor and cognitive function. But then taking one of Britain’s hottest young, up-and-coming actresses, the wonderfully monickered Tuppence Middleton (if there was any justice in this world that would be the name of a pornstar-by-Royal-Appointment*), and casting her as an incontinent dribbler trying to reacquire bowel control would be willfully perverse, the resulting film appealing only to a very specific target audience of faecal freaks.

After an explosion blows her out of the window of her rustic French holiday villa face-first into the concrete pool patio, Middleton’s Micky wakes up from a coma and major reconstructive surgery with no clue who she is. Luckily her highly suspicious-acting guardian Julia (Kerry Fox) is on hand to fill in the blanks. Turns out she’s a troubled, poor, little, rich party girl with a loft apartment to die for in hip and trendy Shoreditch, a pointless boyfriend (Welsh Hobbit Barnard) and a lucrative sideline as a hipster photographer. Investigating her old life, Micky finds traces of Do (Roach), a childhood friend who’d recently reentered her life and apparently died in the explosion. As she reads Do’s diary, uncomfortable memories bubble to the surface, forcing Micky to some painful revelations where nothing in her life is quite what it seems.

A refreshingly female take on the paranoid conspiracy thriller, Trap For Cinderella’s tangled web is needlessly convoluted, its twists and turns both thumpingly obvious and totally unbelievable, the film’s central conspiracy revolving around a frankly bonkers, suicidal, staged explosion planned over the phone in front of the only fluent English speaker it seems in the South of France, but the film just about works thanks to Softley’s cool detachment and the performances of its immensely talented oestrogen-heavy cast. Updating Japrisot’s 1962 novel to the present day, Softley’s almost uninterested in the conventional, Hitchcockian-inspired thriller aspects of the plot, though the first London-set half where Micky trawls through the detritus of her former life and finds the ghostly spectre of Do is easily more satisfying, concentrating instead on the film’s two greatest assets; Middleton and Roach.

Roach is wonderful as Do; the doe-eyed, slightly needy bestie whose hugs are just that little bit too long, her kisses a little too deep. Vulnerable and easily led, Roach keeps Do just the right side of likable as her breathless admiration of her more glamorous friend turns to obsessive love before curdling into something altogether darker and a bit Tom Ripley as she starts to resent the object of her desire. The luminous Tuppence dominates the film however (and also spends much of it with her tuppence out. Just saying…) playing the kind of girl most girls would hate in real life, turning in a wonderfully schizophrenic performance as the psychologically fractured Micky struggling to carve out a fresh new identity from the wreckage of the old. She’s by turns selfish, spiky, vulnerable, manipulated, guilt-ridden, insecure, indomitable and alluring. Their performances hint at the much darker, more troublesome film Trap For Cinderella could have been.

There’s strong support too from Fox in the kind of disenchanted, malignant, middle-aged spinster role that Charlotte Rampling has made her own in recent years and a wonderfully wintry early turn from Emelia Fox as Micky’s plastic surgeon but Barnard’s pointless, underwritten boyfriend is easily the weakest link of the film purely by virtue of having nothing to do and adding nothing to the film.

Suffused with a cloying Sapphic erotic tension that never quite boils over, Trap For Cinderella is a thriller that’s at its most satisfying when its not trying to be a thriller and concentrates instead on the jealousy, obsession and almost hysterical, all-consuming nature of female friendship.

* With grateful thanks to Ben Winkley for use of the phrase “pornstar-by-Royal-Appointment”

Trap For Cinderella at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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