Friday, April 27, 2012

Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)

Sorry about the lack of film reviews lately, a lot has been happening in my life lately .

This week I'm revisiting an old favorite, a picturesque period film with a very sweet story. Ever After is one of those films that's been a family favorite, one I used to watch with my family all the time. When I re-watched it recently it was lovely hearing all of those familiar lines, laughing at those hilarious scenes and tearing up at those super sweet "awww!" moments!  
If you haven't seen Ever After yet I'd love to introduce you to this marvelous film!

Story: This retelling of the classic Cinderella fairy tale cuts out fairy godmothers and pumpkin coaches and instead sets the story in 16th century France. Danielle is a rather tom-boyish feisty motherless girl who loves her father dearly. When her father brings home the Baroness Radmilla, and her daughters Jacqueline and Marguerite, Danielle is trying to make friends with them but her father's untimely death throws the whole family in chaos. Danielle grows into a spirited, kindhearted young woman forces to make her keep by joining the servants in the housework, which she does without complaint. When one of the servants is condemned to transportation for the Baroness's debts Danielle dresses up as a courtier in order to buy him back and makes quite an impression on Prince Henry. The prince is slightly less than charming and has troubles of his own such as his reluctance to be royal or to enter into an arranged marriage with a Spanish Princess. When the King gives Prince Henry five days to choose his own bride Baroness Radmilla is determined to make Marguerite the future Queen, meanwhile the Prince is busy discussing literature and responsibility with Danielle. Throw in Leonardo da Vinci, a villainous scoundrel, a witty captain of the guards, an artistic best friend and a band of gypsies and you have a tale fit for the storybooks!

Script's Historical Accuracy: Although the story supposedly takes place in 16th century France and the historical characters Henry II and his father Francis I do appear this is definitely a historical fiction piece. In real life Francis I of France did not have a Queen named Marie but married Claude, Duchess of Brittany and then Eleanor of Austria. Henry II married Catherine de' Medici of Italy, so unfortunately no Danielles and no Cinderella story. I was surprised to discover that some of the info about Leonardo da Vinci was correct, he did live in France for the last few years of his life in a house provided by Francis I who became a good friend. The portrait Leonardo paints of Danielle in the film is based on da Vinci's Head of a Woman.

Costumes: The Baroness and her daughters wear lovely dresses in rich fabrics and the dresses and accessories of the Queen and courtiers were stunning! Danielle has one plain house dress but she gets to dress up several times and those dresses are my favorites! I noticed on a recent viewing that the dresses Danielle wears are shown as being part of Marguerite's wardrobe and she wears a few of the same dresses later in the film (a nice touch I thought!). Prince Henry has some nice tunics and riding boot but his trousers are rather tight from time to time. Overall the costumes are period correct and stunning!

Scenery: Stunning scenes in and around castles in France and a lot or gorgeous outdoor scenes! This piece is really beautifully filmed! It actually seems to give a fairly accurate view of living conditions in 16th century France.

Music: Composer George Fenton created an absolutely beautiful soundtrack. From the very first scene to the last each moment is filled with delightful currents of music that soar with hope, set the stage for adventurous chases and add to the general hilarity of many scenes. The Official Soundtrack is lovely to listen to, and the main theme is just stunning!

Actors & Characters:

  • Drew Barrymore as Danielle - Although Drew Barrymore is an American actress who does mostly modern films her role in this film is far and away my favorite. Her British accent and acting style in this film reminds me of Ramola Garai on several occasions. Danielle is a sweet and kindhearted heroine with a spunky and opinionated side. She honors her stepmother but also knows when to stick up for herself and the family's faithful servants.
  • Anjelica Huston as Baroness Radmilla da Ghant - Another modern American actress it quite surprised me how well Ms. Huston fit into the role of evil stepmother. Her performance was very powerful and mostly it was very easy to dislike her but there were a few occasions when she was almost likable because she did seem like she had loved Danielle's father.
  • Megan Dodds as Marguerite - Every Cinderella tale needs an evil stepsister and Marguerite definitely fits the bill. She is selfish, conniving and very jealous when the prince likes other people better than her. Megan Dodds' performance is so much fun to watch, the character even has some hilarious lines, just wait for "there was a bee" and die with laughter! :)
  • Melanie Lynskey as Jacqueline - Most original Cinderella stories have a plump but kind stepsister and Jacqueline who is "only there for the food" (hehe) is just right. She goes along with her mother and sister's evil schemes most of the time but she is usually kind to Danielle. Melanie Lynskey gives the character a lot of sweetness and humor especially toward the end of the film.
  • Lee Ingleby as Gustave - Gustave is Danielle's childhood friend who is a painter and who helps her out on several occasions throughout the film. He's a very kind and silly brother figure played very well by actor Lee Ingleby. If you've seen the BB's The Life and Adventures Nicholas Nickleby (2001) you'll probably recognize that Lee played Smike in that, my favorite Smike! :)
  • Dougary Scott as Prince Henry - What is a Cinderella tale without a handsome Prince Charming? not very much IMHO. Scottish actor Dougary Scott does a lovely job of dropping his brogue (so sad really! can't a French prince have a Scottish accent?) and depicting Prince Henry who is rather lost when he first meets Danielle. Her passion for helping others inspires Henry to use his royal power for the good of his people and to be a better man.
  • Timothy West as King Francis & Judy Parfitt as Queen Marie - First thoughts: Sir Leicester Dedlock and Mrs. Clennam married!?! Yes, any Dickens fan will definitely recognize these two from Bleak House and Little Dorrit as well as many many other period drama roles. As the King & Queen they are stressed about their son not taking responsibility or finding a bride but they are always fair and have a humorous side too! They were perfect in the roles. :)
  • Anna Maguire as Young Danielle - A very early role for this young starlet but she did a wonderful job or capturing young Danielle's spirit and love for her father. The scenes with Danielle and her father were just the sweetest and so much fun to watch. Anna Maguire went on to role in Wives and Daughters (Young Molly), David Copperfield and Daniel Deronda.
  • Walter Sparrow as Maurice - Maurice is the devoted servant of Danielle's family who she has to rescue from being transportation because of her stepmother's debts. He's a very kind soul and together with his wife and daughter makes up Danielle's true family. If you've seen Secret Garden (1994) then you'll instantly recognize actor Walter Sparrow who plays Ben Weatherstaff the gardener who talks to birds.
  • Toby Jones as Royal Page - Actor Toby Jones is excellent at playing creepy slightly villainous roles and this is just such a role. This Royal Page supplies information to the Baroness to assist her evil schemes and in return she pays him handsomely and makes kissy faces at him (yuck!). The character is quite ridiculous so fairly good for a laugh and just made a bit creepy by the actor's interesting talent.

My Thoughts: I absolutely love this film! It's one of those films that no matter how many times I watch it I always tear up, I always laugh and it never gets old.
When I was re-watching it several special things stuck out to me that reminded me why I love this film. First of all the heroine has a very close relationship with her father - laugh together, they read together, and even their rock-paper-scissors way of settling arguments is so cute. It has a heroine who stands up for what she believes in, she's always kind but when she feels deeply about something she can't let injustice go by without saying or doing something. The romance is very sweet and it's not really a love-at-first-sight story, the Prince likes Danielle but they develop a good friendship along the way. I also like that despite a few kisses their romance  is very clean. The characters are a lot of fun to watch and so well portrayed by an amazing cast of actors. There's loads of delightfully funny scenes, phrases and characters - lots of quotable stuff! And overall this is such a sweet story with a very happy ending.

My Recommendations: Ever After was rated PG-13 when it was first released in 1998 and they reportedly cut out three swear words for the VHS version to make it PG. I've only seen the VHS version so I'm not sure if the DVD version is uncut or not.
Things to be aware of: There are a few low cut dress on the ladies, a bit of language used (as far as I can recall it's a word for an illegitimate child) and the Baroness makes what I call "kissy faces" at the Royal Page to get information (so basically just flirting).
My friends and I loved watching this film at sleepovers when we were pre-teens. It's pretty family friendly in general but parents can always view the film beforehand for younger children..
I highly recommend Ever After! All my period drama fans are really going to love this movie a lot. If you haven't seen it yet this is a must see film! :)

Have you seen Ever After before? 
Which character do you think is the funniest?
Do you have any favorite quotes?


Jillian B said...

A friend of mine said she enjoyed this, so I think it's about time I saw this too.

Ella said...

This is one of my favorite non-austen period drama films.
I own the soundtrack and love!

Lauren said...

I love this movie! It's so sweet and funny:-)

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely film. There is a musical version of Cinderella called 'The Slipper and the Rose', that you might want to check out also.

Bekah said...

It's been a while since I've seen it, so I kinda forget details... but I remember enjoying it :)

Emily Ruth said...

I love this movie!!!! Thanks for doing such a great review. :)

Rachel Olivia said...

Awww, I love this movie.

Jemimah C. said...

I greatly enjoyed this film. It was both hilarious and sweet.

Elisa said...

It's been awhile since I last saw this movie--it's been on TV at one time or another.

Mom Wald said...

This is a family favorite. Our boys were even willing to watch this one. I need a new DVD copy before our VCR wears out!

It has so many wonderful, quotable moments.

My favorite to use around the kids with an extra snotty tone is, "Don't speak if you cannot improve the silence."

I usually get response of, "Don't worry mother, I'm only here for the food."

Big harry Hubby can do an uncanny imitation of, "There was a bee."

I think I need to watch this tonight while I wait for the middle child to be at prom. Thanks!

Abilaine said...

This is a favourite with all of my brothers and sisters!
"Go... catch a chicken." (:

Melissa said...

While I haven't watched this movie in quite sometime, it is still one of my favourites, primarily because its a more adult version of the story (and probably a more realistic version as well). I should get out my copy of the movie and see if the DVD version has an un-cut version.

BatZion said...

Oh my goodness! I fell in love with this movie as a little girl and was shocked to find the DVD in the bargain bins almost ten years later. Guess what? I bought it...
I still love this movie. It's right up there amongst 95P&P as my favourite.

Favourite quote is probably from the beginning:
Gustave: You look like a girl!
Danielle: Well, that's what I am half-wit!
Gustave: Yeah... well today you look it!
Danielle: Boy or girl, I can still whip you!

I also love the "It was a bee." line. And when the Prince and Danielle are lost and D climbs a tree to find their way back. Henry complains that she's up in the tree in her undergarments... she pipes back, "You might fall and break your royal neck, and then where would we be?"

LOL! Such a sweet movie.

SimpleTruth said...

Ever After is one of my all-time favorites! Dougray Scott is the best Prince Charming ever in my opinion, and the entire thing works so well, the fact that there were writers, story editors, and costume designers is forgotten because the story pulls us in so well! My favorite quote is a two-parter:
Danielle: "A bird may love a fish, signore, but where would they live?"
DaVinci: "Then I shall have to make you wings!"

Emily said...

Very good movie! Every time one of my sisters chooses it to watch I'm just like "not that AGAIN!", but by the time it's into the second scene I'm sucked into watching - and enjoying it - AGAIN! I love it though - especially the costumes.

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