Directed by: Andy Tennant (1)
Cast: Drew Barrymore (2), Anjelica Huston (3), Dougray Scott (4), Melanie Lynskey (5), Patrick Godfrey (6), Peter Gunn (7), Megan Dodds, Timothy West and Judy Parfitt
My favourite quote – “A life without love is no life at all.”
“My great-great-grandmother’s portrait hung in the university up until the revolution. By then, the truth of their romance had been reduced to a simple fairy tale. And while Cinderella and her Prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.” – Grande Dame
Have you ever wondered if there is any truth to the fairy tales we grew up with? Fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella, they all could have had its roots from some historical moment. After all, if you’ve ever played broken telephone, you’d know very well that people don’t always remember everything they hear. And passing from person to person, tales could become exaggerated.
The ability to make it feel like Cinderella could have been a true story is what makes me love Ever After so much. It’s my favourite version of the Cinderella tale. After watching the recent live action adaptation of Cinderella by Disney, I decided to watch Ever After again.
Watching it again, I am reminded of the other things about the film that make me love this version of the fairytale so much.
Servants, They Are Human Too
Danielle: I wish to address the issue of this gentleman. He is my servant and I am here to pay the debt against him.
Driver: You’re too late, he’s bought and paid for.
Danielle: I can pay you 20 gold francs.
Driver: Madame you can have me for 20 gold francs. Now drive on!
Danielle: I demand you release him at once or I shall take this matter to the King.
Driver: The King is the one that sold him. He’s now the property of Cartier.
Danielle: He is not property at all, you ill-mannered tub of guts. Do you honestly think it right to chain people like chattel? I demand you release him at once!
Driver: Get out of my way!
Prince Henry: You dare raise your voice to a lady, sir?
Driver: Your Highness. Forgive me, Sire. I meant no disrespect. It’s just er… I’m following orders here. My job to take these criminals and thieves to the coast.
Danielle: A servant is not a thief, Your Highness. And those who are cannot help themselves.
Prince Henry: Really? Well, then. By all means, enlighten us.
Danielle: If you suffer your people to be ill-educated and their manners corrupted from infancy. And then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded Sire but that you first make thieves and then punish them?
Prince Henry: Well, there you have it. Release him.
Driver: But, Sire.
Prince Henry: I said, release him!
I grew up with a domestic helper living in my home. Since I was a year and a half, even before I could speak, she was a part of my life and my family. She sits at the dinner table with us and eats the same dishes as we do. Just last year, my parents brought her to my younger brother’s graduation ceremony and brought her to see the sights in Gold Coast and Brisbane. If I could, I would take care of her all my life when she grows old and can no longer take care of herself.
But there are some in the world who treat domestic helpers like slaves. Yes, they earn a monthly wage. But the way they are disrespected and treated suggest that their employers treat them more like slaves than an employee.
I thought this kind of mentality only existed in the early days, like in the 16th century, the era Ever After is set in. Where servants are treated like property and not regarded as fellow human beings. Human beings who have feelings and who have needs too.
I suppose that is one of the reasons why I enjoyed Ever After so much. Because I too, like Danielle, feel that servants, maids, domestic helpers, whatever name you call them by, are “not property at all.”
But there are servants of another kind.
Servants Of A Nation
Prince Henry: I have no desire to be King.
Danielle: But think of all the wonderful things you could do, for your country, for the world.
Prince Henry: Yes, but to be so defined by your position. To only be seen as what you are. You don’t know how insufferable that is!
Danielle: You might be surprised.
Prince Henry: Really?
Danielle: A Gypsy, for example, is rarely painted as anything else. They’re defined by their status as you are, yet it is not who they are. You have been born to privilege, and with that come specific obligations. I am sorry. My mouth has run away with me again.
Prince Henry: No, my lady. It is your mouth that has me hypnotised.
Princes, kings, queens, princesses, politicians. They are all servants of a nation. Their position demands certain sacrifices.
The first Prime Minister of my country, Singapore, passed away just last week. He once said something that really struck a chord with me.
“At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.” – The Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew
He had a choice. And he chose to serve the nation by making sure that Singapore could achieve her full potential.
In Ever After, Prince Henry didn’t have a choice. He was “born to privilege, and with that come specific obligations.” Truth be told, this conversation between Danielle and Prince Henry made me think of another film I enjoy a great deal.
Prince Char: My father used to sing to me, loudly and very off-key, but I still miss him. I have Edgar, I guess. He’s not such a bad guy. He risked his life to save my father. And he brought me up as his own son. I know you don’t like his politics much, but I’m sure when I tell him about the giants, he will correct the situation.
Ella: Yeah, or you could. It took a lot of guts for you to come here. Look at the way you smoothed things over with Koopooduk. You’re a natural at this.
Prince Char: Wow, is that almost a compliment?
Ella: Almost. Now, don’t go getting a big head okay, your crown won’t fit.
Prince Char: You know what else? Tomorrow I’m gonna go to my uncle and I’m gonna ask him to repeal the elfin restrictions. Slannen will have his day in court, if I have anything to say about it.
Ella: I think you’re gonna be a great king someday. Your father would have been proud.
Prince Char: Thanks. I think he would have really liked you.
Can you guess which film this dialogue is from?
If you guessed Ella Enchanted, you got it right. Based on Gail Carson Levine’s novel of the same name, the story is actually a retelling of Cinderella. And Ever After is, of course, an updated version of the ‘ol Cinderella tale as well.
Now, no matter how they update the tale, Cinderella is still about love and finding one’s Prince Charming.
Marriage & Love
But what happens if the Prince character has to fulfill his duties and serve his nation by marrying for advantage.
Captain Laurent: Signor da Vinci has been invited to the palace as the artist in residence.
Prince Henry: Leonardo da Vinci?
Leonardo da Vinci: Michelangelo was trapped under a ceiling in Rome. I’m just a second choice.
Prince Henry: I am on my way to Genoa and I find my salvation on the highway! Sir, you are the founder of forward thinking and my father is the king of backward. Could you talk him into the 16th century?
Leonardo da Vinci: Captain Laurent, do translate.
Captain Laurent: Prince Henry suffers from an arranged marriage, signore, among other things.
Prince Henry starts out avoiding the arranged marriage at all cost. And by the end of Act 2, disillusioned he agrees to the arranged marriage.
Leonardo da Vinci: What have you done?
Prince Henry: I was born to privilege and with that comes specific obligations.
Leonardo da Vinci: Horseshit.
Prince Henry: You’re out of line, old man.
Leonardo da Vinci: No, you are out of line. Have you any idea what she went through to get here tonight?
Prince Henry: She lied to me.
Leonardo da Vinci: She came to tell you the truth and you fed her to the wolves.
Prince Henry: What do you know? You build flying machines and walk on water. Yet you know nothing about life.
Leonardo da Vinci: I know that a life without love is no life at all.
Prince Henry: And love without trust? What of that?
Leonardo da Vinci: She’s your match, Henry.
Prince Henry: I am but a servant to my crown and I have made my decision. I will not yield!
Leonardo da Vinci: Then you don’t deserve her.
This dialogue above contains my favourite quote of the film.
I agree with Leonardo da Vinci, “a life without love is no life at all.” But one thing I find disturbing about fairytales of old is the way love seems to be a love at first sight thing and gives one the illusion that as long as you have love, that’s all you need to be a good marriage and live happily ever after.
With Ever After and even in the recent Cinderella film by Disney, I’m really glad that they showed the Prince and Cinderella actually getting to know each other and connecting with one another over time.
I always believe that you need to love the person in order to contemplate marriage with that person. But once in a marriage, love can only get you so far. Mutual respect, understanding, trust, compromise, and communication is also very important in order for a marriage to work.
I have many strong opinions about love and marriage. And one of those topics include the idea of ‘the one’.
Prince Henry: Do you really think there is only one perfect mate?
Leonardo da Vinci: As a matter of fact, I do.
Prince Henry: But then how can you be certain to find them? And if you do find them, are they really the one for you or do you only think they are? Then what happens if the person you’re supposed to be with never appears? Or she does, but… but you’re too distracted to notice?
Leonardo da Vinci: You learn to pay attention.
Prince Henry: Then, let’s say, God puts two people on earth and they are lucky enough to find one another. But one of them gets hit by lightning. Well, then what? Is that it? Or perchance you meet someone new and marry all over again. Is that the lady you supposed to be with? Or was it the first? And if so when the two of them are walking side by side, were they both the one for you, and you just happened to meet the first one first? Or is the second one supposed to be first? And is everything just chance or are some things meant to be?
Leonardo da Vinci: You cannot leave everything to fate, boy. She’s got a lot to do. Sometimes you must give her a hand.
Prince Henry asks very good questions here in this spiel about finding the one. I too have often asked those questions. And I have think that there isn’t just one ‘the one’. Is that confusing?
I think that there are many potential Mr and Ms Rights in one’s life. But whether you meet them at the right time, right situation, and right place is the difference between who actually becomes your Mr or Ms Right. This topic demands more time and space. So perhaps I’ll elaborate again in a future post.
The concept of fate also fascinates me.
I really liked what Leonardo da Vinci said, “you cannot leave everything to fate, boy. She’s got a lot to do. Sometimes you must give her a hand.” And I truly believe in it as well. Fate can only get you so far. If you don’t open your heart to it, even if the person is right under your nose, you might not realise it. And even if you realise it, if you don’t do something about it, it might pass you by.
My boyfriend and I are a great example. Perhaps we were fated to be together. After all, we were next door neighbours in junior college and we actually knew of each but didn’t know one another personally. I actually remember noticing him and he confessed that he noticed me as well. But we both didn’t make any move to get to know one another better.
Fast forward to 13 years later, if we both weren’t open to the idea of online dating websites. And as such, didn’t create a profile on OkCupid, we might have never crossed paths again.
That is why a lot of times, I believe that everything happens for a reason.
Love, Defying Gravity
Instead of having a fairy godmother like in the recent Cinderella adaptation, the role of the “fairy godmother” comes in the form of Leonardo da Vinci, “the man who opened a door.”
After all, if it were supposed to be based on truth, you can’t expected audiences to believe that magic is real.
Leonardo da Vinci: Yes. I shall go down in history as the man who opened a door. (chuckles)
Danielle: Gustave! How?
Gustave: Maurice said the Prince was expecting you.
Danielle: He is expecting someone who does not exist. Signore, my name is Danielle de Barbarac and I am but a servant.
Leonardo da Vinci: And I am the bastard son of a peasant. What does that to do with anything?
Danielle: I have deceived him.
Leonardo da Vinci: The Prince will understand.
Paulette: The child, the night is young. We must get you ready for the ball.
Danielle: I do not wish to go.
Louise: If you stay the Baroness wins.
Danielle: How can I face him?
Leonardo da Vinci: Because he deserves to hear the truth from the one he loves.
Danielle: A bird may love a fish, signore, but where would they live?
Leonardo da Vinci: Then I shall have to make you wings.
I really like his response to Danielle’s question. It isn’t logical or realistically possible. But still, the romantic notion is quite fetching.
Ain’t No Damsel In Distress
One of the other reasons why I like Ever After so much is because Drew Barrymore’s Cinderella didn’t need to be rescued. She rescued herself from Pierre le Pieu even before the prince arrived at the scene. Way to go Danielle de Barbarac!
Prince Henry: Hello.
Danielle: Hello. What are you doing here?
Prince Henry: I erm… I came to rescue you.
Danielle: Rescue me? A commoner?
Prince Henry: Actually, I came to beg your forgiveness. I offered you the world, and at the first test of honour I betrayed your trust. Please, Danielle…
Danielle: Say it again.
Prince Henry: I’m sorry.
Danielle: No. The part where you said my name.
Prince Henry: Danielle. Perhaps you would be so kind as to help me find the owner of this rather remarkable shoe?
Danielle: Where did you find that?
Prince Henry: She is my match in every way. Please tell me I haven’t lost her.
Danielle: It belongs to a peasant, Your Highness who only pretended to be a courtier to save a man’s life.
Prince Henry: Yes, I know. And the name’s Henry, if you don’t mind. I kneel before you not as a prince but as a man in love. But I would feel like a king if you, Danielle de Barbarac, would be my wife.
Ever After’s Cinderella is feisty and opinionated. She’s unafraid to stand up for others and against others. And yet, she is also kind and forgiving.
Forgive And Forget
Danielle: I want you to know that I will forget you after this moment and never think of you again. But you, I am quite certain will think about me every single day for the rest of your life.
Baroness: And how long might that be?
Danielle: All I ask, Your Majesties is that you show her the same courtesy that she has bestowed upon me.
Today is Good Friday. And during the Stations of the Cross, one of the things that was mentioned was forgiveness. Jesus forgave all those who sinned against him. Even though they wanted him crucified.
In the latest adaptation of the fairytale, Lily James’ Cinderella forgave her stepmother for doing all those horrible things to her. And in Ever After, although Drew Barrymore’s Danielle aka Cinderella didn’t outright say those words, she was merciful to her and forgave her stepmother as well.
It is something that the updated fairytale tries to teach us. In fact, it is a message that is also evident in another recent fairytale adaptation.
In Snow White And The Huntsman, Kirsten Stewart’s Snow White said “I used to hate her. But now I feel only sorrow.” It is evident that she forgave her stepmother for all the evil things she did.
I very much expected Ever After to be a romantic drama. But I didn’t think it was going to make me laugh out loud. But it did.
King: You, sir, are restricted to the grounds.
Prince Henry: Am I under house arrest?
King: Do not mock me, boy, for I am in a foul disposition. And I will have my way.
Prince Henry: Or what? You’ll send me to the Americas like some criminal? All for the sake of your stupid contract.
King: You are the Crown Prince of France.
Prince Henry: And it is my life.
Queen: Francis, sit down before you have a stroke. Really, the two of you. Sweetheart, you were born to privilege, and with that comes specific obligations.
Prince Henry: Forgive me, Mother, but marriage to a complete stranger never made anyone in this room very happy.
King: Marry Gabriela by the next full moon or I will strike at you in any way I can.
Prince Henry: What’s it to be, Father? Hot oil or the rack?
King: I will simply deny you the crown and live, forever!
Prince Henry: Good. Agreed. I don’t want it.
King: He’s your son!
I love the dynamic between Prince Henry’s father and mother. While they’re not there solely for comedic purposes, I do enjoy their digs at each other.
King: In honour of Signor da Vinci I have decided to throw a ball. A masque ball. At which point, you and I will strike a compromise.
Prince Henry: Compromise? You?
King: If love is what you seek I suggest you find it before then. Five days hence, at the stroke of midnight you will announce your engagement to the girl of your choice or I will announce it for you. Are we agreed?
Prince Henry: What of your treaty?
King: Let me worry about Spain. You’ve got bigger problems.
Queen: Choose wisely, Henry. Divorce is only something they do in England.
Perhaps theirs was also an arranged marriage. But some form of affection seemed to have blossomed between them still.
All in all, Ever After is not only enjoyable, it was a refreshing post-feminism interpretation of the Cinderella tale.
(1) Andy Tennant has also directed films like It Takes Two (1995), Fools Rush In (1997), Anna And The King (1999), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Hitch (2005), Fool’s Gold (2008), The Bounty Hunter (2010), and Wild Oats (2015)
(2) Drew Barrymore has acted in films like E.T The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Firestarter (1984), Poison Ivy (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Scream (1996), The Wedding Singer (1998), Never Been Kissed (1999), Charlie’s Angels (2002), Donnie Darko (2001), Riding In Cars With Boys (2001), Confessions Of A Danergous Mind (2002), Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), Duplex (2003), 50 First Dates (2004), Fever Pitch (2005), Music And Lyrics (2007), Lucky You (2007), He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), Whip It (2009), Going The Distance (2010), and Big Miracle (2012). She also did voice work on the animations Titan A.E. (2000), and Curious George (2006).
(3) Anjelica Huston has also acted in films like Captain EO (1986), The Witches (1990), The Addams Family (1991), Addams Family Values (1993), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), When In Rome (2010), and 50/50 (2011). She also played the character of Eileen Rand in the television series Smash (2012-2013).
(4) Dougray Scott has also acted in films like Deep Impact (1998), Mission: Impossible II (2000), My Week with Marilyn (2011), and Taken 3 (2015). He’s also guest starred in the television series Desperate Housewives.
(5) Melanie Lynskey has also acted in films like Coyote Ugly (2000), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Shattered Glass (2003), Flags Of Our Fathers (2006), Up In The Air (2009), The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012), and Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (2012). She is currently plays the role of Rose in the television series Two And A Half Men (2003-present) and has guest starred in shows like The Shield, The L Word, Psych, and House.
(6) Patrick Godfrey has also acted in films like The Importance Of Being Earnest (2002), The Count Of Monte Cristo (2002), and Les Miserables (2012).
(7) Peter Gunn also acted in film Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009).
Ever After adds a big dose of realism to the Cinderella fairytale and does a great job at doing so. It is very believable that it could have indeed happened in the 16th century. Also, the standout performances by Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Megan Dodds, and Melanie Lynskey, all women I might add, make this an amazing film that keeps me entertained no matter how many times I watch it. But most of all, I love that Ever After empowers women and reminds them that you don’t need a man to rescue you. (4.5 of 5)
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