British director Iain Softley is something of a curio, having made films as diverse as Henry James adaptation The Wings of the Dove (1997) and the Angelina Jolie-starring cyberpunk thriller Hackers (1995). His latest film (another literary adaptation), Trap for Cinderella (2013), is awash with style and yet at the same time pays homage to the French New Wave with its over-boiled, but enjoyable, mystery-thriller narrative. Based on the novel by Sébastien Japrisot – dubbed the Graham Greene of French literature – the plot concerns a young, affluent fashionista, Micky (Tuppence Middleton), living in London’s happening East End.
One day Micky is reunited with childhood friend Do (rising star Alexandra Roach), with whom she became separated from after discovering a dark family secret. Do quickly becomes infatuated with Micky’s glamorous new lifestyle, aping her mannerisms until the two are barely distinguishable. Before long their bizarre relationship has spiralled out of all control, unveiling a sinister web of betrayal and deceit. Whilst certainly not as potent as some of Softley’s previous notable endeavours, there’s still plenty here to appeal to cinemagoers. It’s arguably the film’s sense of style that attracts most, a lively juxtaposition between London’s fashionable, rough around the edges East and the sun-drenched vistas of the South of France.
The scenes that take place in London’s hipster-centric Hoxton are some of Trap for Cinderella’s best, popping and bopping with all the energy of a packed nightclub, and topped off with a particularly toe-tapping soundtrack that includes the likes of James Blake, The Chemical Brothers and The Chromatics. The characters and story still feel extremely literary as opposed to cinematic, meaning that it can feel a little hammy at times: partly due to the source material, and also in how Softley has approached distilling the text for the big screen.
The cast is carefully chosen, boasting the talents of a somewhat underused Frances de la Tour (Aunt Elinor), a maniacal Kerry Fox (Julia) and a brief appearance from Alex Jennings (Chance). In the two lead roles, Middleton and Roach are incredibly captivating as the Janus-faced pair; the former offers up a carefree, hedonistic performance; the latter a doe-eyed delight with bunny-boiler elements simmering beneath. Far from Softley’s finest work, Trap for Cinderella succeeds in mashing the elegance of sixties chic with that of contemporary London into an entertaining, if traditional, British thriller.