|Ever After - A Cinderella Story|
|DVD Romantic Drama|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 14 January 2003|
To be sure, there are no actual fairies in this re-imagination of the Cinderella tale. In place of a supernatural godmother, no less a personage than Leonardo Da Vinci shows up to aid our plucky heroine, here called Danielle de Barbarac and played with thoroughly winning flair by Drew Barrymore. The story is related through a framing device, in which a deposed French queen (Jeanne Moreau) summons the Brothers Grimm to her palace to tell them how they’ve fouled up the facts of the matter.
‘Ever After’ follows the general shape of the Cinderella prototype, with the good-spirited, deserving (and beautiful) protagonist subjugated by her cruel stepmother (Angelica Huston) before captivating a prince. Here, however, Danielle does much more than captivate Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) with her beauty. She has a passion for justice, learning and art -- and a mean pitching arm. Henry’s regal snobbishness is nearly as ruinous as the stepmother’s scheming, but ... well, trust the title.
What’s most surprising and refreshing about ‘Ever After’ is the way director Andy Tennant and screenwriters Susannah Grant and Rick Parks (the latter collaborating with Tennant) keep the action vigorous and engaging, making it smart enough to appeal to grown-ups without pushing "adult" subject matter to the fore. Rape and murder are threatened, but so carefully that youngsters who don’t know what’s at stake will be none the wiser for watching. A scene of flirtation in Chapter 10 has dialogue so beguiling and erudite that most viewers would be glad to be on either end of the banter. Barrymore has wonderful chemistry with the aptly charming Scott. Huston provides a portrait of a self-interested woman that is simultaneously larger than life and dazzlingly complicated. It’s a great pleasure to see the terrific Melanie Lynskey (Kate Winslet’s costar in ‘Heavenly Creatures’) in a substantial role as a not-so-wicked stepsister.
‘Ever After’ is visually sumptuous, thanks in large part to the production design of Michael Howells and especially the gorgeous costume designs of Jenny Beavan. The DVD’s preservation of the ultra-widescreen aspect ratio 2:35:1 allows the full riot of color, movement and shadow that Tennant and his associates have crafted so well. The imagery reaches a pinnacle at (what else?) the ball scene in Chapter 22; the action has been reconceived for this new version, but the grandeur lives up to tradition. The sound is fine, but lacks standout moments; a dramatic water splash in Chapter 5 is as exciting as the effects get, though the score by George Fenton is quite pleasant.
With its gorgeous look and continually engaging characters, ‘Ever After’ is an ideal combination of storybook gloss and real heart, a romance that doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence or either of the genders. Those who view it will look fondly upon it ever after.