Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Caught Off Guard By Ever After, A Charming Fairy Tale Film!

The Good: Barrymore's acting, Supporting acting, Minutiae of character, Costumes
The Bad: Obviously predictable plot, Some pacing issues
The Basics: A thoroughly competent retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella, Ever After wins with the addition of character over simple morals.

Every so often, I watch a film that genuinely surprises me. Lately, I seem to be watching more good movies than bad and so when I got out Ever After figuring I'd end up balancing some of those good reviews out with a film I didn't predict I'd recommend. When Ever After began, I felt like I was on pretty safe ground with that notion.

Ever After opens with the Brother's Grimm sitting down for tea with a woman who insists they got the Cinderella story all wrong. It was so contrived. I watched the opening and groaned. Of course, coming into the film, I knew the plot was mostly predictable; it's a known fairy tale. But it seemed such a lame way to introduce the story. There are other films where such flashbacks work. In this case, it felt too much like, "We want to start off differently than just saying 'Once upon a time. . . .' and going from there . . ."

Despite what I felt was a botched beginning, the film wore me down. The most impressive aspect, in truth, was the most important; character. Fairy tales suffer so much as being plot heavy stories. So little is fleshed out of the characters. The glowing redeeming aspect of Ever After is that it adds details. Danielle (aka the Cinderella role) is a revolutionary. No kidding, she's a socialist. Her prince charming-type, Henry, is a quasi-enlightened folk; he's smart enough to understand the world is not simply the place he rules supreme. He understands his upbringing is uncommon and in the tale develops some genuine sympathies for those he rules. And, one of the aspects I enjoyed quite a bit, Danielle's step sister Jaqueline is not wholly unfriendly to Danielle. I liked that.

In short, Ever Aftersucceeds where the Disney version fails to satisfy today by being less black and white. The evil aren't so evil; they're state-endorsed from the beginning. The good aren't entirely good; they are liars, bigots and turncoats.

I must say, I was impressed with Drew Barrymore. She was the perfect casting selection for a change. She plays the role of Danielle with innocence and dignity, which caught me off guard. Moreover, she has the perfect look for the film. She's not a spotless blonde cartoon, here at least she is a baby fat brunette and I applaud all films that fail to have their heroine be the Hollywood standard (I know, it's an irony here!). The supporting cast of Dougray Scott (Henry), Megan Dodds (Marguirite - evil step sister!), and especially Patrick Godfrey (as Leonardo da Vinci) give good performances, rounding out the film's feel with competence. Angelica Huston was fine and I actually like that she didn't so much steal the screen.

Outside the horrible beginning, I have to say my only real issue was with the pacing. At times, the film dragged. It was sufficient that I noticed myself checking the time about four times in the film. However, in a film where there are no surprises to be expected from plot, I have to say, this film did well. The specific lines (though there were some I anticipated) occasionally made me laugh. Humor was used well in the movie. King Francis, especially, was endowed with lines that were funny. In fact, I'm not much of a fan of slapstick. In truth, I loathe slapstick. There are moments where the humor is about people falling down and some of them actually work well here.

All in all, it's a pleasant re-telling of Danielle, er, Cinderella. It's entertaining and it does it well. There is even enough depth of character to please me and I tend to be a tough sell on works like this!

For other films involving Drew Barrymore, please check out:
Going The Distance
Whip It
Donnie Darko


For other film reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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