Seen: On dvd on my tv, from my personal collection.
I have this weird thing where I start watching this movie all the time, either on tv or on dvd, but it's always longer than I think it is and I never get around to finishing it. Of course I've seen the whole movie straight through on multiple occasions, but not in the past few years. Ever After takes a pretty passive and sappy fairy tale and adapts it into a realistic but still somewhat magical tale of one woman's liberation through love. After the sudden death of her beloved father, Danielle (Drew Barrymore) is forced into servitude by her cold-hearted new stepmother, the Baroness Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston). Over the course of several years the baroness's hedonistic spending sends their estate into ruin, and she devotes all of her efforts to securing the hand of Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) for her snobby daughter Marguerite (Megan Dodds). However, after disguising herself as a courtier to rescue a sold servant, Danielle finds herself unwittingly catching the prince's eye and the two engage in a battle of wits that eventually leads to love. The Baroness will stop at nothing to angle for Marguerite's place as future queen and conspires to expose Danielle for the lowly servant (and liar) she really is.
Yes, it's basically a sentimental period romance but goddammit I love this movie! Maybe it's Drew Barrymore, and the fact that she spends most of the film spewing eloquent insults in an ambiguously European (well mostly British I guess) accent. Maybe it's Anjelica Huston, and the fact that she is so deliciously evil I just want to eat her up with a spoon and absorb her villainous powers. Maybe it's the more ridiculous aspects of this "real" story, including a deus ex machina in the form of Leonardo da Vinci, a motley crew of (stereotypical) Romani thieves, and a wide array of funny hats (and snoods!). Likely, it's a combination of them all, plus my stupid soppy heart that totally falls for their stupid beautiful love story.
My favorite thing really is Danielle, though, because she is a badass. She beats up her male best friend on a regular basis, she's got a surpringly accurate throwing arm, she can swordfight, she looks pissed off all the time, and she reads like a nerd. What a babe. The plot is not wholly a romance, but more an investigation of this subjugated young woman and how her intelligence and resourcefulness pull her out of her situation. And love happens to be in there too, along with a bit of class satire. It's nothing groundbreaking but its various components all come together so well, combining a good script with lavish visuals and compelling performance, that I'd easily list it among my top fictional period pieces. It's kinda funny, too.
Pair This Movie With: One of my absolute favorite books growing up was Ella Enchanted, another re-imagining of the Cinderella tale. I have not seen the film adaptation nor would I recommend it since I know a lot was changed and it just looked awful, but I heartily recommend the book for any age. Truth be told, it's still one of my very favorites.