I know, I know, it’s just another Cinderella story, what with the legendary glass slipper, the eligible prince, wicked stepmother, horrible step sisters, and the orphaned girl who spends her time among the soot and ashes of the fireplace longing for true love—but that is where you would be wrong. While Ever After does have all these elements, it also has so much more going for it.
Danielle is the kind-hearted step daughter who, despite her oppressive environment, generally maintains a sweet spirit and desire to please the only mother she has ever known. Her stepmother. But when her stepmother sells off one of the family servants, who has loved Danielle since her infancy, in order to pay the step mother’s debts, Danielle knows she has to do something. So, posing as a baroness, she boldly goes to the castle to purchase back her grandfatherly friend and, while securing his freedom, lands herself in a boatload of trouble!
In enters Henry, the prince of France, who is being forced by his father (with the hopes of grounding his son a bit more and giving him a direction in life) into either choosing his own bride, or be forced into a contractual marriage with Spain. But once Henry sees the lovely Danielle stand up for the life of her friend, he’s intrigued by the spitfire and begins to pursue a young woman who doesn’t want to be pursued, for fear of being exposed as a servant.
Danielle really is forbearing under the vilest of circumstances. While I have heard it said by some (admittedly by those who have not watched the movie themselves) that Danielle is extremely feministic, I would argue that she has many character traits worth emulating, especially in regards to her family.
Rodmilla (stepmother) is a beast, and openly favors her oldest daughter (while shunning her younger daughter, raising her just barely above her stepchild). Depriving Danielle of any love or pride, she is constantly fault finding and scheming to ruin Danielle’s chances of a happily ever after, due to her jealousy of the girl and the love her father had for her. And yet, through all of this, Danielle continues to serve her stepmother, longing above all else to find love and acceptance in her arms. It is only until the end, when Rodmilla’s feelings are made most clear, that Danielle begins to stand up to her stepmother.
Life lessons abound like dozens of sound bites throughout the film, and it extols things like loyalty, trust, friendship, religious faith, the love between a father and daughter, chivalry, mercy, and one’s obligation to use power and position for the good of mankind.
Danielle is something of a tomboy, though as she ages she becomes much more comfortable with her femininity. She is a rather forceful young woman when it comes to defending herself and others, and she isn’t sitting around waiting and pining for Prince Charming, which may turn off some people. In fact, when Prince Charming comes, he has some foibles, and Danielle is more than willing to call him on those, challenging his complacency and views on life. For me, this is a positive element, but to others, I know it can be an issue.
The only real issue with the film is its language. There is a scene where the s-word is used strongly, and there are several exclamations where the Lord’s name is used in vain, one of which is very startling as it is shrieked by the wicked and impatient stepsister.
Also, divorce is joked about rather casually by Henry’s parents. Although we see that, in the end, they really do care for one another, and they are willing to work through their issues, they often make quips to each other about their issues.
As for costuming… there are a couple of issues with the neckline of the courtier’s dresses, including Danielle’s (when she’s gussied up). One scene in particular was a bit unnecessary when we have a pan down to look at a brooch on a woman’s bodice. It is brief, but still irked me.
Scenic landscape, very cool costumes, good acting, and a nice twist on the Cinderella story make this an enjoyable film to watch, especially for how little content issue there are, and how counter-cultural Danielle’s attitude towards her aggressive stepmother is. People can say what they like about the film, but my entire family enjoys Ever After, and will continue to do so, I am sure, for years to come. I think it is a movie worth giving a chance (be sure and check out the things you have previously heard when viewing it). If you don’t like it, no harm done, but if you take the chance and watch it, you might find that you actually enjoy the ride.