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Friday Film Review: Ever After

Ever After (1998)
Genre: Romance
Grade: B

A few weeks ago when I reviewed the Rodger’s and Hammerstein Cinderella musicals, I promised I’d be doing more Cinderella movies in the coming months. Here’s a different version of the fairy tale which is both more and less grounded in actual history but which I find charming all the same.

Jeremy Perkins at IMDB has done a marvelous job of writing a plot synopsis so I’m just going to credit him and borrow it for use here.

“With the sudden death of her loving father (Jeroen Krabbé), Danielle (Drew Barrymore) is made a servant by her new stepmother (Angelica Huston). She also has two new stepsisters, one quite kind (Melanie Lynskey) but the other one really horrid (Megan Dodds). Still, Danielle grows up to be a happy and strong-willed young lady, and one day her path crosses that of handsome Prince Henry (Dougray Scott), who has troubles of his own at home. Luckily the nice Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey) is on hand to help all round.”

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This version does make an attempt to ground the story in actual historical events even if, with a lot of them, it grabs history in a headlock and gives it a noogie. The film is set in France with various events in it dated to the early 15th century. If you want to read all the anachronisms, go to the goofs page of the IMDB and confirm all those niggling things that make you question, “what….?” as the film goes on. Even though things like this usually make me cringe, I find the movie’s strengths more than enough to balance them out.

What do I like? For one, the fact that Danielle is an intellectual who is first attracted to Prince Henry because he can discuss “Utopia” with her. And sure he’s handsome but he also listens enough to her likes and dislikes to offer her the one thing she’d be sure to love – access to the Royal library. Gotta love a man who pays attention. Instead of just wittering on about the ball and how handsome Henry is, the film has discussions of philosophy and shows Danielle out hunting for truffles with her pig. It is France, after all!

Also Danielle isn’t just interested in discussing philosophy – she lives by it. She’s the one who cares for her father’s estate even as her stepmother bleeds it dry and the one who looks after the servants going so far as to risk punishment to save one. She also saves Prince Henry with a handy fireman’s carry. When she’s put into the hands of her worst enemy, she’s the one who manages to rescue herself – even if I don’t believe that her father would have turned her into an expert swordswoman before he died when she was only 8 years old. Still, the look on Henry’s face when he rides up to save her and realizes she’s already saved herself is priceless.

Believe it or not, I also like the fact that Henry isn’t perfect. He’s actually a bit of a handful for his parents and initially seems more interested in Danielle because she doesn’t kow tow to him. He does show his feet of clay during the ball scene but receives two set downs for it – one when da Vinci basically tells Henry he doesn’t deserve Danielle and two when his foreign bride wails aloud at the thought of marrying him thus showing him he’s not the bee’s knees he thinks he is. And he does give a marvelous groveling scene as he proposes to Danielle. Plus, there are some nice, well stuffed codpieces to be seen throughout the film. Oh come on, you know I’m shallow that way.

As good a job as Barrymore and Scott do, they are backed by a great cast including Huston who manages to make the evil stepmother character delightfully wicked without turning her into such a caricature. The stepsisters aren’t physically ugly and one is actually fairly kind. Jacqueline helps the main romance along in the end and is rewarded with her own love while the evil sister and stepmother get their just comeuppance. I love the way Danielle is magnanimous yet still gets her revenge.

There are some things about the film which might turn people off. The historical anachronisms are there in plenty. As well, the delivery of the dialogue is somewhat period “stilted” though not badly enough to be too distracting once you’re used to it. But as a reward there are lovely costumes and scenery including the Château de Hautefort with which I am in love.

I think perhaps the main reason I end up liking this film so much is the fact that loving Danielle makes Henry want to be a better man. As well, Danielle has more to her than just a pretty face and the fact that her foot fits a particular shoe. Even if that shoe was made by Farragamo! Plus who can resist a fairy godmother in the form of Leonardo da Vinci? B

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

47 Comments

  1. Rae Lori
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 04:49:11

    Great film review! I’m glad you guys covered this movie. It’s one of my all time fave fairytale movies and romances for all the reasons you mentioned.

    I love the way the story takes it’s time to draw out each of the characters by themselves so that we can appreciate it fully when they become a couple and have their HEA. The scenery and costumes are indeed gorgeous as is the musical score. Plus I also LOVED da Vinci in this movie (especially the way he delivers the classic door line with a mix of charm and sarcasm). And how can you not love a movie where ‘Cinderella’ gets to TKO the evil stepsister!

    Sure there are a few anachronisms and the dialogue is a bit stiff at times but I think it still works in the context of this particular story and setting. The film is too charming and fun not to be taken away by it. :-)

    Okay, now I’m tempted to go put it on for a rewatch lol.

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  2. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 04:59:09

    @Rae Lori: The musical score is great too. Meant to mention that.

    LOL, I love the door scene. And the cat fight over Danielle’s mother’s dress.

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  3. Gina
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:05:17

    In a house full of testosterone this one is in the “chick flick” pile only to be watched when the cavemen are out hunting and gathering. Pardoning their poor taste in cinema I love love love this movie.

    It’s sits happily along side my copies of “Moonstruck” “Love Actually” and… well you get the hint, other love stories that may not be cinematic genius but never fail to bring a tear to my eye and a smile to my face.

    You’re review was spot on, making Danielle a strong intelligent woman and Henry a not so suave Prince was brilliant and who doesn’t love an evil Angelica Houston? It never fails to get me when he stands there, looking ever so un-suave-like and says “I came to rescue you”… ah you just had to make me go look it up on YouTube :)

    Thanks for the smile so early on a Friday morning.

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  4. ka
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:10:18

    Now I’ll have to find my VHS tape of this film and watch it again. I was not a fan of Drew Barrymore until I fell in love with her (and Adam Sandler) in The Wedding Singer, which was released the same year.

    Perhaps my favorite scene is when Danielle is about to enter the castle for the costume bal. She pauses for a moment and says to herself, “Breathe.”

    It is a feel good film.

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    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:17:10

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  6. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:22:44

    @Gina: Lucky for me I don’t have to worry about accommodating my pets’ choice of movies. Now if they had opposable thumbs…

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  7. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:28:46

    @ka: It was this movie that made me like Barrymore too. Lots of her other romance movies have fallen short for me. I also like her in “Everyone Says I Love You.”

    I think the “Breathe” comment shows how much she loves Henry. She’s baring her true self to him and wants so desperately to be what he wants and is so nervous about falling short.

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  8. cate
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:41:46

    There really is a lot to love about this film(not just the FABULOUS “glass” slippers). What really makes this flick work, apart from the leads, is the brilliant supporting cast. From the wonderful Timothy West & Judy Parfitt as Henry’s long suffering parents & their brilliantly observed (arranged)marriage – which is why,they can’t understand Henry’s objections to the same state/fate.
    Angelica Houston & Megan Dodds(IMO a really underrated & super actress) doing the best ever take on the stepmother/ugly sister thing. Menacing & funny at the same time – And finally- The magnificent Jeanne Moreau, as the narrator, that wonderful husky voice, & those final lines that gave me a “butterly hands” moment, much to the old mans disgust !
    Good choice Jane.

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  9. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:50:33

    @cate: I love the way that you think Marguerite is going to be found out as the bitch she is but then she’ll recover brilliantly and manage to extricate herself such as the scene with the Queen when Marguerite throws a hissy fit then simply says “a bee.”

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  10. Lizzy
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 05:58:10

    For me, this movie falls under the category of movies that are probably terrible, but I really don’t care that much (see: LadyHawke, which is the definitive example of this.) Drew Barrymore’s cloying accent, the ridiculous costumes, Angelica Huston chewing the scenery, token gypsies, token historical figure, I could go on and on. And yet, again, just don’t care. I watch it every time it’s on TBS. Ha!

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  11. Tisty
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 06:09:55

    @Lizzy: I agree. Its my fav bad movie. I mean technically bad. everything you shouldn’t do with either plot or history and yet….
    It has a strange ability to linger. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I actually had to replace my worn VHS copy with a DVD, when other, supposedly better films (yes I am looking at you in the bedroom) lay forgotten in antiquated technology. I hate the phrase guilty pleasure as it is a cop out, but this is the one movie that makes me want to stretch a point.
    And thanks to jayne I’ll now have to go and re-watch it!!!

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  12. cate
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 06:32:45

    @Jayne:
    Also, one of the finest examples of “top totty” tantrums ever – just before she & AH are shoved into the dye bath .Cracking stuff –
    Ummmm…Hint about the film for Hallowe’en weekend Jayne please ?

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  13. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 06:38:06

    @cate: LOL, yes. Those two deserve each other. And I think the head laundress is going to have fun putting them to work.

    Hint for Halloween? Hmmm, it’s a paranormal but there’re no witches, werewolves or vampires. It also has one of my favorite Scottish actors in it.

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  14. cate
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 06:55:12

    @Jayne: Gosh Jayne, that REALLY narrows the field down !
    Well, as long as it’s not Sean Connery in
    Darby O’Gill and the Little People (OH the shame Sir Sean,the shame !!!!) I’ll be happy !

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  15. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 07:20:03

    @cate: No, no, not Sir Sean. Focus on the first hint I gave you.

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  16. Angela
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 07:44:31

    Fantastic review Jayne! This is one of my favorite movies for all the reasons you listed. The stuff that’s wrong with it just doesn’t matter, because of all the stuff that’s right.

    I remember watching it one time with my mom, and my dad walks in, scoffing at the ‘chick-flick’, but pretty soon he’s engrossed (mostly because of the fantastic Angelica Huston). I still tease him about that. LOL

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  17. Sandy James
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 07:47:06

    Such a wonderful movie in so many ways! I remember laughing out loud when she picked him up to carry him away when the robbers said she could keep whatever she could carry. Love a strong heroine!! Will have to add this to my Netflix queue to watch again! Thanks, Jayne!

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  18. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 07:58:48

    @Angela:

    The stuff that's wrong with it just doesn't matter, because of all the stuff that's right.

    Yep, you nailed it with that sentence. It’s feel good in a good, uncloying, way.

    ReplyReply

  19. Mary G
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 08:18:00

    One of my faves & I watch it every time it’s on. Dougray Scott is icing on the cake.

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  20. Mireya
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 08:22:08

    I love this movie. Along with “Stardust” and “Lady Hawke” it’s one of my top three fantasy romance movies.

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  21. Gwynnyd
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 08:30:10

    B! A B for this movie? No. No. Just no. It is much better than that. At least a half a grade up to A-. I know the anachronisms. The rest is so delicious, I don’t care. Arrgh. Now I want to watch it and I don’t have time today.

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  22. Lynn M
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 08:31:40

    I caught part of this the other day – I’d seen the entire movie years before – and was really turned off by Prince Henry. It was the part of the movie after Danielle is exposed at the Ball and Henry throws a huge temper tantrum and is basically a first class jerk. Unlike Jayne, however, I didn’t find this flaw endearing. For me, it just made me wonder why Danielle would even want this guy. Maybe I need to go back and watch the whole thing again. I do find it hard to listen to Drew Barrymore’s delivery of the dialogue – she’s very wooden. But it’s a fun bit of fluff, and I’m always a fan of Cinderalla stories.

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  23. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 09:46:30

    @Lynn M: Yeah, if I started watching the film at that point, when Henry throws the “she’s a servant and I’m a Prince!” tirade I would also probably think, “No, you’re a prick.” I think you need to see him before that point and how much he’s coming to love this woman to understand how Danielle still loves him even after this and that he really does love her.

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  24. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 09:49:03

    @Mireya: Maybe I need to give “Stardust” a second chance. I was wowed by the fantasy stuff but…it’s just so different from what I’m used to that it was at the same time a bit off putting.

    ReplyReply

  25. Darlynne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 10:21:09

    I loved this movie, warts and all. It’s been years since my last viewing, so one is definitely in order.

    The trailer for “Ever After” also introduced me to Loreena McKennitt’s “Mummer’s Dance,” which was never used in the film. That was a huge disappointment at the time, but I’m over it now (mostly).

    I recommend listening to “Stardust.” The audio book is read by Neil Gaiman, a real treat.

    ReplyReply

  26. John
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 10:28:00

    A great movie, despite the obvious anachronisms. It’s not like they cared. It wasn’t meant to be a historical epic, but a lovely take on Cinderella that’s fun and feminist. :p One of my favorites, especially with Drew Barrymore!

    Also, did you hear about the planned musical? It’s on indefinite hold at the moment, but I would love to see it on stage. It could potentially surpass the movie.

    http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/SHNSF_Premiere_of_EVER_AFTER_Musical_Cancelled_Creative_Team_Continues_to_Develop_Project_20090128

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  27. ka
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 11:14:46

    @Sandy James: I forgot about the scene – it was very a clever twist to the story!

    ReplyReply

  28. Kristina Cook
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 12:10:46

    Oh, Ever After is probably one of my all-time favorite feel-good movies. I *love* it, flaws and all (and no, it’s not a coincidence that the hero of my first book is named Henry, LOL!). Everything about the movie was utterly charming. I think it’s time for a re-watch–it’s been years! And this is a good reminder that I need to replace my old VHS copy with a DVD.

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  29. library addict
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 13:21:08

    I thought Ever After was a cute film, but I’ve only seen it once. Guess I need to get the DVD.

    My favorite version of Cinderella is The Slipper and the Rose.

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  30. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 13:58:19

    @library addict:

    My favorite version of Cinderella is The Slipper and the Rose.

    Ah yes, another lovely version. Look for a review of it coming up.

    ReplyReply

  31. Jayne
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 14:01:20

    @Kristina Cook:

    And this is a good reminder that I need to replace my old VHS copy with a DVD.

    Beyond getting to see the film in widescreen, there ain’t a whole lot of extras on the original DVD. Which is a shame since I’m the sort who loves to listen to commentaries and ‘making of’ featurettes.

    ReplyReply

  32. german reader
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 16:05:03

    I like this movie but it draws a lot from the 1973 Czech-German “Three Nuts/Wishes for Cinderella” – my all time favorite fairy tale adaption.

    Horse riding, tree climbing, snow ball throwing, crossbow hunting Cinderella;
    handsome, unhappy and a little immature prince; evil but funny stepmother with a predilection for strange hats and the overall humorous atmosphere has already been done in this movie. But it also features wonderful snowy scenery with the most beautiful music.

    That movie has reached cult status in Europe and there is no Christmas without this movie on TV just as there is no New Years Eve without “Dinner for One”

    Unfortunately for English speakers there is no English dubbed or subtitled version on youtube, just one with an english narrator that doesn’t capture the magic.

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  33. Susanna Ives
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 16:14:12

    I watched this movie years ago, and the only aspect that really stood out for me was Angelica Huston. She really did humanize the stepmother’s character. You can see the emotional motivation behind why she disliked Danielle. Overall, I thought this film was campy in both good and bad ways. As for fairytales, I prefer “Ella Enchanted” and “The Company of Wolves.”

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  34. Moriah Jovan
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 18:07:08

    @library addict:

    Slipper and the Rose, yay and *le sigh*

    My 7-year-old XX hasn’t been overcome with the need to swoon. o_O

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  35. Wendy Marcus
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 19:53:14

    I loved this movie. It made me a Drew Barrymore fan. I also loved her in Fifty First Dates. Another great movie.

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  36. Susan/DC
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 21:11:43

    I loved this movie so much that usually prissy, picky me didn’t even notice the anachronisms. Still couldn’t tell you what they were and don’t want to know. It took my art conservator sister to tell me an error in the film (not an anachronism): the Mona Lisa was painted on wood so couldn’t be rolled up. I don’t care about that either. This film oozes charm and humor and good nature, and that’s all I care about.

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  37. Likari (LK Rigel)
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 21:21:12

    I love this movie. And yes, the “you can take what you can carry” scene is priceless.

    Drew Barrymore’s accent drives me crazy, but I don’t care. I love the joy in it. I got the feeling that everybody making the movie was having a great time.

    And I thought the chemistry between Barrymore and Huston was wonderful.

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  38. Kristina Cook
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 21:34:17

    @Jayne:

    That’s too bad. I *love* all the featurettes that usually come with DVDs. Ah, well. Still, gotta replace that old VHS tape. Probably starting to fall apart, anyway!

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  39. SylviaSybil
    Oct 23, 2010 @ 00:05:08

    You make me want to see the movie again!
    “A fish may love a bird but where would they live?”
    “I shall build you wings.”

    One thing though, I didn’t think she was supposed to a good swordswoman but a good bluffer. If I recall correctly, she doesn’t do any actual fighting, just picks up the sword, holds it against the bad guy and tells him she’s an expert swordswoman. Because yeah, it’s kind of illogical that her father could have taught her that before 8 and she’d still remember it after a decade without practice.

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  40. Jayne
    Oct 23, 2010 @ 04:21:14

    @SylviaSybil: You’re probably right about the bluffing. After all, she is supposed to be an intelligent woman!

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  41. Jayne
    Oct 23, 2010 @ 04:23:04

    @Kristina Cook: Oh, I do too! But it seems that for a lot of the films first released on DVD in the mid to late 90s, all that’s there is the bare bones. Now if someone released an Anniversary edition, we could be cooking with gas.

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  42. cate
    Oct 23, 2010 @ 04:49:50

    @german reader: oooh The BBC used to show this when I was young. I wish there was a dubbed DVD available, it’s one of the best Cinderella’s ever.

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  43. Deb Kinnard
    Oct 24, 2010 @ 09:30:27

    I do dearly love this film. Even if it got some of the historical details wrong (and 15th C is not the century about which I actually know anything), it FEELS right. And that’s important, ’cause which historical firm gets all the details spot-on? Very few.

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  44. Nordia
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 08:34:47

    Have you ever seen The Slipper and The Rose? Which is another cinderella story which I’ve always had a particular love for. It long and involved and political, and just fantastic.

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  45. Jayne
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 09:12:34

    @Nordia: Yes, indeed I have. I’ve actually got a review written already and have plans for it before the end of the year.

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  46. Jane
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 12:35:06

    @Jayne I would think you would be cinderella-ed out by now.

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  47. Jayne
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 17:40:34

    @Jane: Lord, no. I have about 6 more movies with this theme lined up to do.

    ReplyReply

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