Title: Ever After: A Cinderella Story
Original Title: EverAfter
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director: Andy Tennant
Music: George Fenton
Cinematography: Andrew Dunn
A romance-comedy retells the story of Cinderella, directed by Andy Tennant (SWEET HOME ALABAMA 2002, HITCH 2005 and FOOL’S GOLD 2008), in an attempt to revamp the fairytale with a historical context, in the early 16th century, France. A beautiful young girl Danielle (Barrymore), who is being treated as a servant by her stepmother, the baroness Rodmilla (Huston) after the sudden death of her father Auguste (Krabbé). Upon a chance meeting with Prince Henry (Scott), a romantic feeling has seized both of them, but Danielle is in her courtier disguise, in a moment of desperation, she uses her dead mother’s name to hide her real identity.
While running from an arranged marriage from his parents King Francis I (West) and Queen Marie (Parfitt), Henry decides to marry the girl his heart really wants, so Rodmilla has an eye to the main chance to marry off her own daughter Marguerite (Dodds), and she has no qualms to hamper the true love between Danielle and Henry at all cost. The storyline is basically the same with the fairytale, but all the fantasy elements have been entirely trimmed off, no fairy godmother, no pumpkin carriage, even the slipper has no magic, instead, a real historical figure, Leonardo da Vinci (Godfrey) is introduced as the game-changer, with his painting MONA LISA, which was actually purchased by King Francis I.
One refreshing upgrade of the story is that Danielle’s characteristic has been rendered a modern retouch, she is no longer a damsel in distress, she is the ill-fated cinderella, but she doesn’t need her knight errant to rescue her out of her misery, on the contrary, it is her who saves Henry from a gypsy mob by pluckily carrying him on her shoulder, and near the coda, it is also herself who defeats the gothic-looking merchant Pierre Le Pieu (O’Brien) even before Henry’s arrival, set side by side with Kenneth Branagh’s flashier CINDERELLA (2015), EVERAFTER is unwaveringly innovatory to elevate its heroine out of the cliché and more modest in its art production.
So much for the good intention, the script still seems unbalanced, Marguerite’s wilful turning against her mother is the work of a sophomoric writing, so is Henry’s sudden change of mind, these parts are unfortunately being rushed out without thoughtful polishing. Barrymore’s winsome appearance can smoothly erase viewers’ memories about her problematic child-star past, and the film does revive her career, at the age of 23, she manages to pull off a second life on the big screen. This movie also marks Dougray Scott’s Hollywood breakthrough, but one might argue, his sombre mien doesn’t quite fit the role as an unsophisticated prince (maybe Jude Law would be a better casting choice), his Prince Henry is not dewy-eyed enough to believably amazed by Danielle’s class-defying viewpoint and her extremely ample vigour for life, and his natural reserves doesn’t help either.
As always, the evil stepmother is the most delectable part, and who can portray unbearable haughtiness better than the almighty Anjelica Huston? She is absolutely a hoot to watch, period. Melanie Lynskey’s Jacqueline, Danielle’s other step-sister, is another surprise, she is more defiant towards her mother and more sympathetic to Danielle, and wonderfully throws the last bon mot “of course not, mother, I’m here just for the food.” in the otherwise bromide-laden ending.