Monday, June 10, 2019

The Fairy Tale Project | Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)

Who's in it?: Drew Barrymore (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Wedding Singer, Charlie's Angels, Whip It), Anjelica Huston (Lonesome Dove, The Addams Family, John Wick: Chapter 3), Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible II, but not X-Men), Patrick Godfrey (A Room with a View), Melanie Lynskey (Over the Garden Wall, Castle Rock), Timothy West (I know him from an adaptation of Bleak House, but he also played the same character as Patrick Godfrey in a TV version of A Room with a View), Jeroen Krabbé (The Living Daylights, The Fugitive), and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Hunger Games).

What's it about?: The "real" events that inspired the Cinderella legend.

How is it?: First of all, I love Drew Barrymore. I'm a big fan. And Angelica Huston is amazing as the stepmother who had the potential to become a good person if only she'd spent more time with Cinderella (called Danielle here) and her father (Krabbé). Huston's character clearly cares about her new husband, but loses him too quickly and the blended family never blends.

The entire cast is great and I love the weird addition of Leonardo da Vinci (Godfrey) to the story as a sort of romantic adviser to the prince (Scott). I mean, I disagree entirely with da Vinci's assertion that there is only one potential soul mate for each person, but he's such a charming, well-intentioned character and his ultimate advice is exactly what we want the prince to hear. And he makes boat shoes for walking on water.

I also like that Danielle's sisters aren't a homogeneous unit, but have their own personalities and that their mother has a favorite between them. It's not Lynskey's character and the result is that she gets a nice arc that most Cinderella stepsisters don't.

The deconstructive take is a fun experiment that succeeds. There's no fairy godmother, but Danielle has plenty of support to become her own fairy helper (including wings) and get herself to the ball. And it's cool that the whole thing is told in flashback by a descendant of Danielle to the Brothers Grimm, making this sort of an unofficial sequel to Terry Gilliam's movie about them.

The only think I don't like is that Ever After uses a standard romantic comedy plot to structure Danielle and the Prince's relationship around. It does this very well, but it's still annoying that their relationship is built on a lie she tells and that his discovering it leads to a tragic separation, followed by a dramatic apology and reunion. Again, the movie is really effective at pulling that off, but the predictability of it bruises an otherwise great adaptation.

Rating: Four out of five actually sooty Cinderellas.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

As far as deconstructions of classic narratives go, this is a good template to follow, especially when it comes to removing supernatural elements to keep the story “grounded”. Even if that does provide more ground for romantic movie misunderstanding cliches.

I’ll agree that I like Leonardo da Vinci in the movie but it is a bit odd that he’s there. It reminds me of how Batman is a supporting character in the Lego Movie. This character with their own history is now suddenly and inexplicably somewhere else doing something with these other people we’ve never seen before!

Who would you rather have as your life coach, Leonardo da Vinci or Obi Wan Kenobi?

Michael May said...


Though it works in this story, I really do hate Leonardo's advice about soul mates. I think that's pretty harmful advice in most circumstances.

And Obi Wan is a super flawed teacher as well. He's narrow-minded in the prequels and big fat liar with Luke.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I’m not sure how I feel about soul mates in real life. It works in a movie were you have a limited number of speaking parts to pair up with but I’ll agree that as a philosophy it’s highly suspect.

Michael May said...

I love the idea that souls can be connected and mated with each other. And that should absolutely be the case in a marriage.

What I find dangerous is the idea that there's only ONE soul mate for any particular person. Not that you've at all suggested this; it's just something in pop culture that sticks in my craw. What happens if you never meet yours? Or meet them and they're already married? Or meet them and they die? Or any one of countless other scenarios. The soul mate concept is presented as this ultimate romantic view, but I actually think it's anti-romantic to claim that there's only one, perfect person for each individual. To me, it's much more meaningful that of all the various choices of people whom we could be happy with, we pick one and commit to them.


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