Ever After (1998)

Written by Susannah Grant, Rick Parks & Andy Tennant, based on the story by Charles Perrault
Directed by Andy Tennant
Starring Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Patrick Godfrey, Megan Dodds

My Advice: Wait and rent it.

Cinderella. Singing mice. Fairy godmothers. A pumpkin. Whatever. It's time to set the record straight. The real Cinderella was Danielle (Barrymore), but the basics of the story are right. Her father (Jeroen Krabbé) died shortly after marrying a cruel woman (Huston), who came complete with two begging-to-be-strangled daughters (Dodds and Melanie Lynskey). Reduced to a servant in her own house, Danielle eventually comes across the prince (Scott). The two fall in love, but not before Danielle has beaned his royalness with a few apples. Yes, it's a bit more of a You Go, Girl take on the old story, if you haven't figured that out. Oh, and Leonardo da Vinci (Godfrey) happens to be in the neighborhood as well.

The bottom line is: it's cute. And it's relatively inoffensive. Barrymore is a decent Cinderella (and she cleans up nice). Huston gets the most to play around with, though, as she's a stepmother who's torn between the memory of her late husband and his daughter who resembles him--no wonder she hates Danielle's guts. Scott plays a convincing bit of royalty, although it's not his fault that the script betrays him so badly towards the end. And lastly, Godfrey makes for a da Vinci, that, while I doubt it's very historically accurate--the character's fun, so who gives a damn?

The problem, as I mentioned up top, is in the script. It's not the conceit (i.e. a Cinderella story for the 20th Century) that fails, it's the fact that they actually go too far in trying to make the thing with modern sensibilities. Character motivations make no sense in the third act of the drama, Scott's character goes a direction that is just flat wrong, and what could have been an interesting villain is completely (and unconvincingly) disarmed. You can give the film a lot of leeway because it sets up the fact that A) it's being told my a single narrator, and thus you're prey to her own distorted version of the tale and 2) because it's a fairy tale, historical accuracy is not a killer--but ultimately it breaks the camel's back anyway. This is a shame, because the first two acts are quite endearing--and the film just looks gorgeous. It's a little long, too, at two hours--perhaps some precision editing could have helped where a rewrite could not.

Like I said, the film is cute and really wants you to like it. It just needed some reworking before it, like Danielle, wound up at the ball. It's good for a rental and watching while couchside.

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