Ever After (1998)

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in No Boys Allowed | 0 comments

Ever1

Disclaimer: An unruly display of girl power.

In order to truly appreciate Ever After for what it is, we must first get past one thing – it cannot simply be dismissed as “a Cinderella story.” Ever After rewrites the entire fairy tale and this time not from the perspective of a pair of males (The Brothers Grimm), but from a woman or, even better, reality.

Ever After opens with an old woman Ever3looking to set the record straight on “the little cinder girl” story. With The Brothers Grimm on hand, the woman begins the story of Danielle de Barbarac with – what else did you expect? – “once upon a time.” It takes place in 1700s France, where castles and royalty abound. Drew Barrymore plays Danielle, whose father suddenly dies, leaving her to fend for herself with a someone-please-punch-her-in-the-face stepmother Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (Angelica Huston) and her two daughters Jacueline (Melanie Lynskey) and Marguerite (Megan Dodds). Rodmilla isn’t quite as stereotypical as a “wicked” stepmother; she’s just a twisted member of the bourgeoisie.

“Darling, nothing is final until you’re dead,” she tells her daughter at one point. “And even then, I’m sure God negotiates.”

Danielle is reduced to a family Ever4maid – one of several – while Rodmilla prepares Jacqueline for a royal marriage and casts aside her “ugly” daughter. From there, Danielle meets Prince Henry (Dougray Scott), who is trying his best to avoid an arranged marriage. With the help of her fairy godmother (in the form of Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey)), Danielle tries to rise up from her proletariat post and win the prince’s love. The ending, which we all know, is not the exciting part. It’s the way in which they tell the story and the striking differences to those told before it. Along the way, Barrymore portrays a strong female character that is the opposite of a damsel in distress (in fact, she rescues the prince on one occasion).

Unlike so many adaptations before, Ever After is not about love, but about class and gender. Its socialist themes run rampant as we connect with the servants and even the thieving gypsies, who turn out to be nice. This is, to date, my favorite adaptation of the Cinderella story as it breaks all conventions and finally presents a fairy tale woman worth looking up to.

Barrymore and Huston carry the film’s acting portion, while director Andy Tennant continues his reign of romantic comedies (Fools Rush In and Sweet Home Alabama).

As the story ends, or fades, the old woman returns. “My great-great-grandmother’s portrait hung in the university up until the Revolution. By then, the truth of their romance had been reduced to a simple fairy tale. And while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.”

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