10 Movies To Watch With Your Sweetie: Ever After
Ever After (1998)
Drew Barrymore: Danielle
Angelica Huston: Rodmilla
Dougray Scott: Prince Henry
Megan Dodds: Marguerite
Melanie Lynskey: Jacqueline
Patrick Godfrey: Leonardo
Screenplay by Susannah Grant and Andy Tennant & Rick Parks (based on the 1729 story by Charles Perrault)
Directed by Andy Tennant
The Cinderella story has been told ad nauseum it seems. We've had live multiple live action films, a classic Disney animated feature, a musical, a Jerry Lewis version, and now I'm losing track. Has there been an anime? Also, I'm waiting for the dark, edgy version where Cinderella is a monster hunter and she finds out her evil stepmother and stepsisters are wendigos.
My personal preferred adaptation of this timeless tale (and one of my wife's personal all-time favorite films) is Drew Barrymore's 1998 Ever After. The traditional structure of the story is there. A lovely young woman is subjected to cruel treatment from her stepmother and stepsisters after the sudden death of her father. She meets and falls in love with a prince and there is some business with a ball and a shoe, but, alas, no violent tracking of wendigos. Don't let this be a deterrent. Ever After is lovely, romantic, and subversive take on the Cinderella story, anchored by one of Drew Barrymore's finest performances.
Drew Barrymore plays Danielle, an independent-minded young maiden who must deal with her stepmother (Angelia Huston) and stepsisters (Megan Dodds and Melanie Lynskey). Danielle is well-read, an intellectual. She possesses a deep love of art, literature, and philosophy. I guess you could say she's progressive. She is not a fan of the monarchy and at one point I thought she might launch into the great speech about the evils of kings from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. She is spunky and opinionated, but also kind and generous. She and the dashing Prince Harry have a meet-cute while he is out sulking about being forced into an arranged marriage. He is at odds with parents, who just don't understand (the Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff were right) that he just wants to fall in love. It's hard out there for a prince.
Of course, the stepmother Rodmilla wants to control Danielle so that her own daughters, the bratty Marguerite and soft-hearted Jacqueline, get the spotlight. Their only goal is access to the prince and life of luxury in the castle. Part of what separates Ever After from other adaptations is the level of performances provided, especially by Angelica Huston. She is cold and calculating, yes, but she is also presented as a creature of an environment she did not create. Women are property and to marry for station is the safe play. It's survival. If love is involved, then that's gravy. A beautiful scene occurs about halfway through between Danielle and Rodmilla, where the two discuss Danielle's father and whether or not Rodmilla loved him. The acting in the scene is superb and so much is conveyed with the eyes and the curve of the mouth. It's top-notch stuff.
The whole film is rendered with heart, humor, and humanity. Even the broader comic moments are grounded in character. The beats are familiar because the story is a part of our fabric, but the tone is mature and individual moments are very surprising. Anchoring it all is Barrymore's performance, which is confident, assured, and poignant. It's also a beautiful looking picture. Lush cinematography, intricate set design, and gorgeous costumes, including Danielle's gown in the ball scene.
Ever After is a romantic film told with its heart and its brain. And, in it, Danielle does something we've been wanting Cinderella to do for centuries.