Ever After Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1998

What is that phrase you use... oh yes. Once upon a time, there lived a young girl named Danielle who loved her father very much...
Ever After Poster

Hollywood is currently caught between two demographic trends: the waning influence of the Baby Boomers, and the increased spending by their children, the so-called Baby Boom Echo, a burgeoning teenage demographic. For the past several years, the Baby Boomers have been contributing to the growth of the upscale arthouse type film in the past three to four years. In an interview in 1996, at the height of this 'Boomer wave', Tony Cianciotta, former Vice President of Canada's Alliance Releasing said "whereby five years ago, a film like 'Howards End' would have grossed $2 million in the U.S., today it can gross much, much more". This demographic group, with their empty nests and higher percentage of disposable income, rediscovered the moviegoing experience-- the age 40 and over moviegoing audience increased from 15% in 1986 to 36% in 1994. The Boomers tended to be more amenable to films that are not typical studio fare, and were more responsive to critical praise. The apex of this trend was seen in 1996's "Year of the Independents". Though their influence is still prevalent, with many films still catering to their tastes, their bankability has seen a downturn, with the less-than-stellar success of Boomer-friendly fare such as "L.A. Confidential", "Amistad", and "The Ice Storm".

A bird may love a fish, but where would they live?
Then my dear, I shall have to make you wings.

On the other hand, the children of the Baby Boomers, now in their teenage years, have begun to demonstrate their enormous spending power. Currently, there are 30 million North Americans in the 12-17 year old age group and their numbers are growing, expected to swell to 55 million by the year 2005, making them the largest demographic segment of the population. You can already see their influence in television (the explosion of those live-action teen high school dramas, such as "Saved By the Bell", that slowly supplanted cartoon fare on Saturday mornings since 1992), in radio (the rise in popularity of urban dance radio) and in printed media. Their influence was most apparent in the 1997 fall film market as seen in the domination of two low-budget horror pictures, both targeted to this group: "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "Scream 2". "I Know What You Did Last Summer" had a cumulative domestic box office of $69 million as of December 14th, outpacing the number two hit of the fall season, "In & Out" by $7 million. "Scream 2" broke the opening weekend record for any film opening in December with a $39 million take and ended up exceeding the $103 million box office of its predecessor.

I kneel before you not as a Prince, but as a man in love.

Coupled with the fact that the teenage/young adult years are the prime moviegoing years and have fewer constraints on their time and disposable income, Hollywood has been taking notice. "Titanic", "Wild Things", and "The Man in the Iron Mask" wooed them earlier this year, and the latest film to pander to this emerging generation of moviegoers is "Ever After", a re-telling of the Cinderella fairy-tale. And despite the obvious marketing of this film, with a trailer that has the "Romeo & Juliet" audience in mind, "Ever After" is not some dumbed-down costume drama for the kiddies-- it actually puts a modern twist on this age-old tale, and is quite successful at it too.

Oh Paulette, it feels just like Christmas! I get a mother and stepsisters, all in one day!

This period romance begins with a visit by the Brothers Grimm to the home of a wealthy dowager (Jeanne Moreau). She voices her issue with the Grimm's interpretation of the 'cinder girl' story, and then proceeds to tell the scribes the 'real' Cinderella story, as it actually happened to her great-great-grandmother. The fairy-tale begins in the sixteenth century, with wealthy landowner and widower Auguste (Jeroen Krabbe) bringing home his new wife, the Baroness Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston, seen most recently in "Buffalo '66"), a woman of noble blood, and her two daughters, Marguerite and Jacqueline. No one is happier than Auguste's spirited daughter, Danielle, who has been granted a new stepmother and stepsisters. However, this bliss is short-lived as Auguste dies of a heart attack soon after, leaving Rodmilla in charge of the household.

Forgive me Your Highness, I did not see you.
Your aim says otherwise.

Ten years later, Danielle (Drew Barrymore of "The Wedding Singer") has been relegated to a life of indentured servitude, bowing to the every whim of her wicked stepmother and snobbish stepsisters. However, fate is kind to Danielle when a man, whom Danielle believes to be a horse thief, is knocked on his back by a well-aimed apple. However, Danielle soon realizes her error when she sees that he is none other than Prince Henry (Dougray Scott), the crown prince of France. The Prince quickly forgives Danielle's actions, partly because he is enamoured by her, and also because he is on the run, trying to escape a marriage treaty that will see him wed to a princess from Spain.

I'm just a servant in a nice dress.

However, this is not the last time that they meet. The feisty Danielle dons the clothing of a noblewoman, and ventures to the castle to argue for the freedom for one of her fellow servants. Once again, Prince Henry notices her, and is moved by her impassioned and eloquent arguments that quote the writings of Thomas More. And though it is clear that the Prince is charmed by her outspokenness and intelligence, Danielle is adverse to revealing her true self to him, thus beginning a most interesting courtship, which must compete with the romantic attentions of Danielle's alluring stepsister, Marguerite (Megan Dodds). And though the Cinderella fairy-tale tells of a dashing prince that comes to the rescue of an impoverished and helpless damsel, in "Ever After", not only does Henry enrich Danielle's life, but the reverse is also true. Danielle rescues Henry from his own narrow view of the world, with the help of newly-appointed Court artist Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey), giving him enlightenment and a sense of purpose.

You are the Crown Prince of France!
And it is my life!

What is most endearing of "Ever After" are the well-fleshed out characters that populate it. The character of Danielle in many ways embodies the themes of the Baby Boom Echo, who have also been referred to as the Net-Generation by author Don Tapscott, with their media-savvy and ready-adoption of digital technologies. According to Tapscott in his book "Growing Up Digital", the philosophy of the Net-Generation culture revolves around fierce independence, emotional and intellectual openness, the right to free expression and open views, and also the need for greater social inclusion. All of these cultural tenets arise from their exposure to unprecedented richness of information in this 'wired world'. Danielle is the apotheosis of these ideals-- full of conviction, passion, and spirit, and Barrymore adeptly handles these qualities in the leading role, effusing extraordinary charisma and zest. It is gratifying to see this young actress, who started as a moppet on "E.T." and then fell onto some hard times in her teenage years, expand her range with roles of ever-increasing challenge. Welsh actor Scott, in his first North American feature role, handles himself well as the love interest who is transformed from a self-absorbed prince to a sensitive would-be king. Huston is malicious and delicious as the classic villainess, and Dodds is also remarkable to watch for all her nefarious scheming.

Choose wisely Henry. Divorce is something they only do in England.

From disadvantage to comeuppance, this lush romance with contemporary trappings pushes all the right buttons. Laced with the right blend of humor, swashbuckling derring-do, pathos, and romantic intrigue, "Ever After" is a magical treat, enchanting to the very end.

We must never feel sorry for ourselves. No matter how bad things get, they can always get worse.

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