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Film Title

Ever After

Director

Andy Tennant

Starring

  • Drew Barrymore as Danielle de Barbarac
  • Anjelica Huston as Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent
  • Dougray Scott as Prince Henry
  • Megan Dodds as Marguerite
  • Melanie Lynskey as Jacqueline
  • Timothy West as King Francis
  • Judy Parfitt as Queen Marie
  • Patrick Godfrey as Leonardo da Vinci
  • Jeanne Moreau as Grand Dame

The Cinderella story is given a lively and entertaining retelling, with a fresh historical fiction slant and modern view of the heroine. Ever After boasts heart and good humour, along with some unexpected touches that give the often told story a new coat of shiny paint.

In Renaissance France, little Danielle de Barbarac lives with her caring father. She never knew her late mother and has been raised with kindness by her father on his farming estate. Her father marries the Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent, who comes with her two daughters Marguerite and Jacqueline. Tragedy strikes when Danielle’s father dies following a heart attack and the nastiness of the Baroness really emerges. Years later, Danielle has grown into a beautiful young woman who has been reduced to a life of servitude under her stepmother. Jacqueline is nice to Danielle, but often stays quiet as she is frightened of her mother. The estate has fallen into ruin, while most of the servants have been cruelly sold and Rodmilla frequently spends money she hasn’t got trying to afford a life of luxury she thinks she’s entitled too. Though frequently mistreated by her stepmother and spiteful Marguerite , her spirited demeanor and feisty personality provide her with the right temperament to not simply be a doormat for others. Danielle is no ones fool and is a girl who will speak her mind when she’s pushed too far. One day, she encounters a must unexpected visitor; the dashing Prince Henry. He is attempting to evade his Royal protocol of an arranged marriage and tussles with Danielle when he tries to steal her father’s horse. He offers her payment if she remains silent about seeing him. This fleeting meeting doesn’t mean much to either at first, but it sets up that they will soon meet under more different circumstances. Shortly after, using the money he gave her, Danielle attempts to buy back a servant that her stepmother sold. Dressing up in her mother’s prized dress, Danielle once again meets Henry, who slowly becomes more curious about her. Her passionate manner stirs something within Henry and Danielle too develops feelings, even though he believes she is a member of nobility. Meanwhile, Rodmilla is plotting a way back into court and hearing that Prince Henry is expected to find a wife, sees snotty Marguerite as her ticket to prominence again. As Henry and Danielle fall further into love and she wears down his snobby attitude, complications arise with Danielle feeling guilty about having to hide her true identity. Add to this the presence of wise Leonardo da Vinci, who acts as something of a guardian angel, and it’s about to get fun and adventurous.

When doing an adaptation of a well-known story, things can go either way. You can be overly traditional or go down a fresh path. Ever After takes the latter road, though it manages to still reference the original source material. Andy Tennant strikes a nice, sprightly balance with the two throughout Ever After. The magical fantasy of other versions is stripped away to focus on the budding romance and spirit of the heroine. There are still touches of tradition to be found( the masked ball and the glass slipper) but everything else discovers a fresh and vibrant take on the material and is all the better for it. framing device employed here. In it, we witness an old duchess telling the ‘real story’ of Cinderella to The Brothers Grimm. Through this usage, we get an old storybook feeling but one that is more fun and modern than a lot of other versions. The fact that it presents the story as being a legend is also a cause to like Ever After, further placing it as one of the most interesting interpretations of the tale. The romance is heightened in Ever After, finding time to develop Danielle and Henry as gradual lovers with distinct personalities. Their encounters have a charm that reminded me of an old screwball comedy, with them running into one another and not quite knowing what to make of the other in the confusion. Danielle is especially well written and defined, coming across as resourceful, kind and full of spirit. Her primary goal isn’t to discover a prince( though romance obviously does figure into things) but to help those closest to her. It is definitely the most independent and tomboyish version of Cinderella there is and for that, one of my favourites. There are languors in the pacing in patches, but the irreverent and playful events in the film more than compensate in their effectiveness. The visual style is breathtaking; largely consisting of a gilded sheen that ties in with the setting and the content on display. The location work is as sumptuous as the elegant costume design on show. And of course, the film wouldn’t be the same without its wistful and lively score to keep things generously fun and engaging.

Drew Barrymore makes for a beautifully spirited and reliable heroine in the form of Danielle. Far removed from the sometimes passive and needing a man to save her incarnations of the Cinderella, Barrymore deftly translates a feisty toughness and genuine sympathy in the part. Danielle is very much a modern woman in an old-time, a strength that the luminous Barrymore plays to and delivers on with her likable charm and clever wits. Anjelica Huston is delightfully malicious and conniving as the stepmother, who dishes out biting remarks and executes underhand sneakiness like a pro. You really can see that Huston is having a ball being so wicked and even a little seductive to. Such diva like personality and slyness is ideal and splendidly conveyed by the fine Anjelica Huston. Dougray Scott is given more to do than most with the Prince Charming part. Scott plays the snobbish yet searching Henry with just the right amount of charm, restlessness and humour that causes him to spark with Danielle. And the gentle, bristling and growing chemistry between him and Barrymore is a lovely sight to witness. Megan Dodds is a bratty and selfish presence as the quite nasty stepsister, while Melanie Lynskey sweetly plays the kinder sibling. Humour and great support comes courtesy of Timothy West and Judy Parfitt, who star as the king and queen who can’t quite seem to work out their son. And special mention must go to Patrick Godfrey’s work as Leonardo da Vinci, whose inspiring speeches and pushes for romance helps Danielle and Henry get closer. The appearance of Jeanne Moreau as the narrator adds immense class and room to reflect, as her voice is so engaging and full of deep wisdom.

A lovingly rendered and fun take on a classic story, Ever After springs to life with both intelligence and care. It all contributes something strikingly modern film with a great protagonist who is anything but a damsel.

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