Ever After

Ever After


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Take the fairy out of the tale and what's left? A real story? Andy Tennant goes beyond the Brothers Grimm to look again at Cinderella.

Her name is Danielle. Her mother died when she was little, her father when she was eight. In 16th century Europe, girls' rights, like peasants' rights, did not exist and so Danielle becomes a servant in her father's house. The evil step-mother myth is treated with intelligence. Baroness Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston) had only been married to Danielle's father for five minutes before he keeled over. She was used to a different kind of life, one of privilege and respect. She is spoilt and her daughters, neither of whom are ugly, except in spirit, doubly so. Rodmilla's problem is living above her means and having an exaggerated view of her own social standing.

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Meanwhile, the prince (Dougray Scott) is kicking against the pricks. He doesn't want any of this royal rubbish and the thought of being king some day appals him. When he's not running off and being dragged back by his dad's posse, he's mooching around the castle, saying he won't marry a Spanish princess simply because it makes political sense, which means his father, the monarch (Timothy West), is permanently about to pop a blood vessel.

The rebel prince and the rebel servant girl are bound to bump into each other. They think alike, except she has a sharper wit ("The penalty of being wealthy is you have to live with the rich"). He can't see beyond what he doesn't want to see ("If I cared about anything, I would have to care about everything") and servants are definitely another species.

When they meet, she is dressed as a courtier, in an attempt to save an old man from deportation, and so a deception is initiated. She gives her mother's name and won't tell him where she lives. Of course, he is smitten. The romance has a vibrant, living centre, partly because there is little opportunity for indulgence, Danielle being so elusive and Rodmilla so devious.

Drew Barrymore loses her modern American bad girl image and finds a balance between strong independent character and diligent serving wench. Scott is even more remarkable. He conveys inbred arrogance that is neither pompous, nor affected, capturing the virility and confidence of what was an absolute ruling class, without a wisp of dandification.

The film was shot in the Dordogne, France, and looks magnifique. Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey), of all people, is the surrogate fairy godmother, except he's neither fairy, nor mother. He brings along The Mona Lisa, in case anyone thinks he's a dotty old bloke who invents water shoes. As for pumpkins-on-wheels, the scriptwriters pass them on to the Fantasy & Futuristic Dept in The X Files building. The glass slipper's alright. Just. But all that riches-to-rags-on-the-stroke-of-midnight-girl is definitely too Disney for these dudes. Ever After fails in only one respect. It has a title that makes you want to throw up.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Ever After packshot
Re-imagining the Cinderella story without the hocus pocus.
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Director: Andy Tennant

Writer: Susannah Grant, Andy Tennant, Rick Parks

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Patrick Godfrey, Timothy West, Megan Dodds, Melanie Lynskey, Judy Parfitt

Year: 1998

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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