Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
One of today’s films comes from a very timeless classic Cinderella. Like Dracula, Cinderella has been told in so many different ways, in so many different cultures and so many different mediums. In fact, I’m fairly certain the story really spawned the whole “rags-to-riches” trope. Or at least, the story helped the trope to gain some traction in the modern day. I can name about six or seven Cinderella stories off the top of my head and I have no doubt that there are plenty more out there that I don’t know about.
One of the films I do know is Ever After. It tells the story of Danielle (Drew Barrymore) who loses her father at a very young age and is put to work as a servant in her own home by her stepmother Rodmilla (Anjelica Houston) and her two daughters Marguerite (Megan Dodds) and Jacqueline (Melanie Lynskey). Despite this, Danielle is ahead of her time. She is smart, feisty, and determined to take back her home one way or another. She meets Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) when the prince steals one of her father’s horses but it’s only when she arrives in the village, dressed as a lady of the court, to save one of the servants, does Henry take notice of her. You can pretty much guess the rest.
I think my favorite part of this film was its mixture of the fantastical and the historical. I mean, the story of Cinderella is a false one. It’s very much a fairy tale. However, Ever After throws a few historical people in the mix and sets the tale before the French Revolution. In case you’re wondering, yes, this is the film with Leonardo Da Vinci as one of the main characters. Da Vinci in a fairy tale. What more could you possibly want? He was just the right amount of kooky and wise that made it feel like he really belonged to the story.
To add to that, Danielle is very much a modern-day heroine in a period piece and she’s timeless. This is the perfect type of woman empowerment. Danielle takes no prisoners as she blossoms and grows into her own person. Once she’s no longer dogged and under Rodmilla’s thumb, she proves herself to be strong and quite capable. Not only that, Danielle is smart. She’s both book smart and street smart. She proves herself a worthy adversary with a pair of swords on one occasion, apples on another, and, since she’s so witty, she manages to save Henry from a band of gypsies which ends with the gypsies befriending Henry. Of course, Barrymore revels in this role. Distracting fake accent aside, she is the quintessential Cinderella. I don’t care what anyone else says.
On a bit of a vain note, Scott is one of the most handsome princes too. He plays Henry as a man who is quite attuned to what he wants and even that is a little ahead of his time as well. He openly and blatantly defies his parents and he runs off on more than one occasion. I suppose, in some aspects, Henry is what Danielle should be and vice versa but the writers flip that pleasantly on its head and it’s so refreshing. The whole story is refreshing and exciting and nearly twenty years later, it holds up so well.
Ever After is really the only Cinderella story you should watch. I will defend that to the grave. It’s so different and nice. Other filmmakers really need to revisit this film so they know how it’s done.