In (belated) honour of Valentine’s Day I thought I’d review what, in my opinion, is one of the better adaptations of a fairy tale romance. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of the Disney version of Cinderella, nor of the Charles Perrault telling on which Disney based their movie. Cinderella doesn’t appeal to my inner feminist because she is too passive and all too willing to rely on magic and Prince Charming to save her. Not to mention that said Prince is completely forgettable – seriously, did he have any memorable character traits despite being apparently so shallow that he “fell in love” with the first pretty face he saw?
But Ever After adds some meat to the bare bones of the Cinderella tale and the finished result is something I would happily force my boyfriend to watch over and over again.
For starters, let’s look at Danielle; the Cinderella of my feminist dreams. She’s smart, she’s passionate and she still has fighting spirit. Sure, she’s still a servant, but when it really matters to her she will put her foot down and refuse to give in to her stepmother’s whims. She’s a well-developed character, but there’s a vulnerability to her that makes her sympathetic. Danielle has self-esteem issues brought on by the fact that the only mother she has ever known shows her about as much affection as one would show “a pebble in their shoe.” The relationship between Danielle and he stepmother comes across fairly well, but I’ll come to that later.
When it comes to Prince Charming, my main problem with the Disney version is that he barely featured in the story, so until the sequels came along we had no way of knowing what kind of man he was. Prince Henry is flawed. As Danielle says, he was born into privilege and takes for granted the life that he has, barely stopping to think about the lives of his people. This provides him with a story arc; the possibility to grow and to learn something. The fact that Danielle unwittingly takes on the role of his teacher gives them something to bond over and you can see the feelings growing between them over time instead of just overnight. Yes, he can be a bit of a douche at times, but that’s why he needs Danielle to give him some perspective – and a kick when he really deserves it.
Even a majority of the side characters are memorable. Leonardo Da Vinci has a small role in this film, but I think the movie made good use of him in just the right amounts. If he’d been in it any longer I would have been less willing to let his presence slide. Nontheless, he is a good comic relief character and he serves well as in place of a Fairy Godmother by giving Danielle a brilliant pep talk and making her a beautiful costume. But who knew Da Vinci could sew?
Even the stepmother and stepsisters are well developed. As I said earlier, the relationship between Danielle and her stepmother isn’t entirely limited to a master/servant relationship. Danielle ackowledges that she is the only mother figure she has ever known and even the stepmother shows Danielle some affection by saying how much she looks like her father – something touching for an orphan child to hear. I think my only complaint would be that they didn’t explore this side of their relationship enough, but that’s just nit-picking.
The stepsisters are entertaining in their own right; Marguerite is her mother’s favourite and she is encouraged to pursue Prince Henry. She does well at playing the part of a Lady, but often her brattish nature is often hard to supress in moments of anger. As you may have guessed, those happen a lot. As for Jacqueline, she’s not really an evil stepsister. She lives in Marguerite’s shadow thus she sympathises with Danielle, however she doesn’t want to be in Danielle’s position. She’ll exchange friendly words with her stepsister, but would never outright encourage her to be defiant, nor will Danielle trust Jacqueline to cover for her when she rebels. It’s a pretty realistic relationship, I thought.
So unfortunately, this review isn’t a long rant about how bad the acting or writing is and for that I apologise. In fact, I barely mentioned that actors because I think the casting was so great that the actors just became their characters. But I will be seeing Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters next week and the trailer looks promising enough to be interesting….but not spectacular. Until then!