Dahti Blanchard

Ever After, the movie

I wrote this review as an assignment for a women’s center newsletter right after the movie had hit the screens in 1998. It remains one of my favorite movies and this review is one of my favorites that I’ve written. I’m happy to share it here.

Let me start this subjective report by telling you that I only saw the movie Ever After three times. Well, all right, four times. But the fourth time doesn’t count since I went after being asked to write this review so it was, of course, for research purposes only. At least that’s what I told my family while dragging them one more time. They didn’t complain loudly though, because it is (in my humble but accurate opinion) a great film.
Some people who know me have been surprised to hear that I liked a Cinderella story. Normally I have no interest since Cinderella herself is usually portrayed as a mousy little wuss and Prince Charming doesn’t even have a name, let alone a personality. Cinderella gets all gussied up (with help, of course) and when she walks onto the dance floor the prince falls immediately in love with her because she looks so good. Then, when she splits early but leaves behind a tiny little shoe, it is his only clue to who she is. He hasn’t even bothered to learn her name, address or the 16th century equivalent of a phone number. And—it’s always bothered me—how come he’ll only know her if her foot fits into the fancy slipper? Surely there has to be one or two other people in the kngdom with the same shoe size. What if one of them gets to slip her (or his) tootsies into the shoe first? And don’t even get me started on the ugly stepsisters.
Then, along came Ever After. At first glance I thought it might not be my kind of movie—a Cinderella story starring Drew Barrymore? No thanks. But the previews were a little intriguing. There was beautiful scenery, 16th century costumes and Celtic music—three of my several weaknesses. I decided to give it a try.
It turned out to be the perfect movie for members of a group to which I belong: romantic feminists. And that is not an oxymoron.
Here is a Cinderella with guts. Her name in this story is Danielle and she has the requisite wicked stepmother and two stepsisters, but things are not as simple as usual. Neither stepsister is ugly and one is even very sweet. The stepmother is definitely wicked (perfectly played by Angelica Huston) but her hidden humanness slips through a few times. Danielle’s first encounter with the prince happens when she beans him with an apple and knocks him to the ground for stealing her horse. He is a bit of a spoiled young man but does have personality and even a name—Henry. He does not fall in love with her at first sight—she is, after all, only a servant. Later, when Danielle is dressed in courtier’s clothing under unusual circumstances, he doesn’t even recognize her as the servant. She certainly looks good at this point, but not in the classic beauty sort of way of one of her stepsisters.
But her looks aren’t what seem to catch the prince’s attention. It is—imagine this—her intellect and unusual ideas. The prince learns from Danielle, then changes and grows. It just gets better from there.
I don’t want to ruin the rest of the story for anyone who hasn’t seen it—there are too many fun surprises to give away. Suffice it to say, this Cinderella can take care of herself (and others too) and find romance and quite possibly live happily ever after. Eventually. Also, Leonardo da Vinci instead of a fairy godmother is a nice touch.
I suppose every good review must have some little nits to pick. The costuming is wonderful but not perfect. There is a mix of renaissance and medieval, but it is a fairy tale after all. I can live with it. There was even an attempt at some period music, although on modern rather than period instruments. Most directors of period films (in the U.S. anyway) don’t bother at all. The one unforgivable mistake is the modern piece of music sung while the credits rolled at the end. Yuck. But at least the movie is over and if you leave the theater fast enough (a bummer for me because I love to stay to the end of the credits) you can pretend the song never happened.
This is one of the very few movies I will buy when it’s released on video. By the way, my estimation of Drew Barrymore has gone up. I recommend this film for all ages of girls and boys and I give it my highest rating of: Three Fertility Goddesses Way Up!
(2005 note: True to my word, it was one of the few videos I’ve ever purchased.)

© 2008 Dahti Blanchard
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