No Fairy Godmother?
Movie fans have never seen a Cinderella film like Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998). For starters, imagine an independent, resourceful heroine who gets help from Leonardo Da Vinci instead of from her fairy godmother. Next, picture a not-so-charming French prince whose snobbery will be his undoing unless he listens to the progressive ideas of this spunky young woman.
In Ever After, Drew Barrymore plays Danielle, whose beloved father died when she was a little girl. She works hard to please her wicked stepmother (Anjelica Huston, absolutely perfect in this role) and two stepsisters. In true Cinderella fashion, she has been relegated to the role of servant to these three selfish women. But she still has time to read “Utopia” and to pose as a countess when a jailed servant friend needs her help. While rescuing this servant, Danielle fascinates Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) and his famous guest from Italy, Leonardo Da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey). Afterwards, the prince searches for this mystery lady, even though he is betrothed to a Spanish princess.
Yes, there is a royal ball, and Danielle loses a glass slipper when leaving the palace. Yes, the evil stepmother gets her comeuppance – so diehard Cinderella fans should not be too disappointed. But the rest of the story presents an extremely different interpretation of events. Nevertheless, first-rate performances and superb production values drew me into this creative updated version of a favorite fairy tale.
Barrymore endows Danielle with an intelligence and strength worth emulating by women of any age. And merely by raising an eyebrow, Huston makes everyone cringe whenever her character comes on screen. How sad to hear the stepmother answer Danielle’s question, “Did you ever love me?” with “Can a person love a pebble in one’s shoe?”
Costumes, art direction, background music and cinematography seem just right in this delightful period romance. A witty, involving screenplay by director Andy Tennant, Susannah Grant and Rick Parks breathes new life into an old legend.
Ever After presents a plucky Cinderella for today’s women and beyond. Viewers who see this entertaining film will no longer think of the fairy tale heroine as a victim. Bravo!
PERSONAL NOTE: Under the category of “stupid things I’ve done,” my behavior toward Anjelica Huston ranks high on the list. At a party in Taos (New Mexico) after she received the Taos Talking Pictures Maverick Award, I clumsily demonstrated to her the funny curtsy she performed while playing Cinderella’s wicked stepmother in Ever After. Fortunately, she just laughed and said, “I’ll be sure to remember you!” And she did. A few months later, I received a personal note from Huston thanking me for the articles I wrote about her. She’s really a very nice lady.
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated “PG-13” for momentary strong language.)
For more information about Ever After: A Cinderella Story, please go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.