Rodmilla: The slightest turn of phrase can have a thousand meanings.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Cinderella is a classic fairy tale that has had too many adaptations in the world of cinema to count. But if I had to pick one adaptation that adapted the classic tale best it would definitely be this one. It was only a moderate success financially it proves to hold up well after all these years.
The story takes place in 16th century France and involves a young Danielle de Barbarac whose widower father has remarried a haughty baroness named Rodmilla who has two daughters. When leaving for a trip he dies of a heart attack and over the next ten years Rodmilla and her daughters force Danielle into servitude while Rodmilla attempts to marry off her own two daughters. But Danielle’s life takes a turn for the better when she meets Prince Henry.
The story for this telling of Cinderella takes out a lot of the fantasy and magical elements such as the talking mice becoming horses, the fairy godmother, the music, or a pumpkin turning into a carriage. But it still keeps core parts of the story like the ball and the masked slipper to keep the Cinderella myth from becoming completely alien. It has a more realistic approach showing that love doesn’t magically happen and that there are genuine obstacles and heartache in obtaining it. Danielle shapes her own path to her happily ever after. It doesn’t mean however she can’t have help and she does get some sound advice from Leonardo DaVinci in dealing with not being able to go to the ball, her stepsisters, and Prince Henry. The story’s nod to the Danielle leaving behind her shoe is something that does however feel unnecessary considering that Henry and Danielle had already met prior to this, it really doesn’t serve any purpose, and its obvious that the two end up living happily ever after regardless of it. With that being said, nothing feels too cartoony or over-the-top. It feels like a real Cinderella story.
The story is good but story is not the core of this movie. At this movie’s core lie the various characters and the performances the actors give. Drew Barrymore’s performance gives the Danielle character a genuine sense of softness and sensibility but also a definitive edge of courage, smarts, and activeness that really sets her apart and makes us want for her to be happy with or without the prince. Angelica Houston was wonderful as the evil stepmother. She has a sly sneaky nature at first that grows more over the course of the story and she relishes every moment she is on screen giving a lavish vibe to her.
Dougray Scott as the prince was fine as Prince Henry and despite taking back seat to the lead his character does have a degree of complexity. He’s no white knight and if anything is quite immature and whiny mostly only looking out for his own interests at first but still has a small sense of honor and nobility to him. As the story continues Danielle brings about a change in him that brings out his best traits and it does so in a legitimate way that doesn’t make him have to be Danielle’s savior but still lets us appreciate the both of them together. The two see each other for who they are and Henry falls for Danielle primarily due to her passion and conviction, which is the beating heart of both characters. Patrick Godfrey as Leonardo Davinci was well portrayed as a grandfather-like figure who gives very heartfelt and insightful contributions to Prince Henry’s development and he’s very much a reflection of the audience.
Ever After doesn’t have a fairy godmother to make all the wishes come true nor does it have spells to make a fancy dress or ride but it brings its magic through its overall characters and its more realistic tweaking of the story. Its characters are strong and its story makes changes in the right places that really bring out magic that no fantasy can replicate.