Ever After: A Cinderella Story

on July 31, 1998 by Christine James
The movie bookends with an elderly woman in possession of a mythic relic reminiscing to researchers about a romantic past. No, it's not "Titanic's" Rose and her Coeur de Mer diamond, but the descendent of a pauper-turned-princess who's inherited her ancestor's fabled glass slipper in "Ever After: A Cinderella Story."
   We quickly flash back to 16th-century France (where everyone inexplicably speaks with an English accent). Young tomboy Danielle (Anna Maguire), wanting the best for her beloved father, is optimistically excited that he is returning home from his travels with a new wife and her two daughters. However, when her new stepmother, Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston), steps down from the carriage, her icy visage instantly makes all the household servants reflexively straighten up as if freezing water had been poured down their backs.
   When Danielle's father is suddenly seized by a heart attack and his dying words of love are to his daughter, jealousy (and a generally mean and selfish disposition) motivates Rodmilla to force Danielle into servitude in her own home.
   Ten years later, a now 18-year-old Danielle (Drew Barrymore) contentedly helps works the fields and tends to household chores, abiding and placating her layabout stepmother and stepsisters so that she can work without interference at maintaining the farm and estate her father had built. When a financially burdened Rodmilla sells a servant, forcing him to leave his wife behind and be shipped off to America, Danielle disguises herself as a courtier to try to convince the King of France to release him. A chance meeting with the rogueish Prince begins with a contention that soon evolves into passion. An enamored Danielle continues her charade as a noblewoman, but Rodmilla, who wants one of her daughters to marry the prince, is determined to thwart the budding romance by any means.
   Helping Danielle along is not a fairy godmother, but rather Leonardo Da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey), who's portrayed as a lovable eccentric with nothing better to do than trying to get the two young lovers together despite the factors conspiring against them.
   Barrymore's Danielle is thoroughly likable--sweet without being cloying, and independent without being contrivedly feminist. Dougray Scott is unobjectionable but unexceptional as the Prince--we can see why he likes her much more than why she likes him. Anjelica Huston is wonderfully hateful yet magnificently subtle as Rodmilla; it was a wise choice on the part of the scripters to make her more human than the caricature of evil one might expect. And of the stepsisters, only one is "wicked," as the story has traditionally referred to them; Megan Dodds is definitely her mother's daughter, while Melanie Lynskey (of "Heavenly Creatures," looking here rather astonishingly like Drew Barrymore!) is a shy and at heart virtuous girl trying valiantly to counteract her programming. And Richard O'Brien ("Dark City") makes a deliciously devilish appearance as Pierre LaPieu (whose name evokes another indefatigably amorous skunk), a shady merchant determined to have Danielle for his own.
   A lively sense of humor keeps up the pace when a somewhat lacking romantic chemistry slows it down. Behind the scenes, costume designer Jenny Beavan has done a splendid job with Daniel's dreamily gorgeous gowns, but the film's foley artists should be flogged for allowing the glass slipper to sound like the lucite it really is when the prince pensively places it on a stone wall. It's "tinkle," not "clunk," guys. Starring Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott, Anjelica Huston, Megan Dodds, Melanie Lynskey and Richard O'Brien. Directed by Andy Tennant. Written by Susannah Grant and Andy Tennant & Rick Parks. Produced by Mireille Soria and Tracey Trench. A Fox release. Romance. Rated PG-13 for momentary strong language. Running time: 121 min
Tags: Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott, Anjelica Huston, Megan Dodds, Melanie Lynskey, Richard O'Brien, Directed by Andy Tennant, Written by Susannah Grant, Andy Tennant & Rick Parks, Produced by Mireille Soria, Tracey Trench, A Fox release, Romance, chemistry, devilish, costume, passion, mythic, relic, romantic

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