I don’t remember the first time I watched Ever After, but the times have been few and far between when it hasn’t been one of my recently watched movies. I vividly remember seeing the trailer every time we watched Never Been Kissed on VHS. I can quote most of the movie and describe my favorite parts to you in vivid detail. Today marks nineteen years since Ever After: A Cinderella Story opened in theaters and I’m in the mood to celebrate it.
If you haven’t seen Ever After stop reading this right now and go watch it. Okay you done yet? For those of you who didn’t want to take the time to watch this seminal classic let me sum it up. Ever After is a retelling of Cinderella set in France starring Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, and Dougray Scott and it is one of my favorite interpretations.
Since it always seems to be left off the pop culture lists for various stylistic reasons (I mean those accents…were they in France or England or the U.S.?) I’ve always felt like I needed to defend it as one of my favorite movies. Recently, while talking with a friend I tried to explain what I love about the movie, and the answer is simple: it checks all my boxes. It showcases:
The power of reading
It comes as a surprise to absolutely NO ONE that I consider reading to be important. Danielle’s love of books was ‘passed down’ from her father and his travels. Her favorite book is Utopia, and she quotes it continuously, but she still understands the struggle to have a favorite book. She also gave me my go-to quote about picking books, “I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens.”
Strong willed woman
Danielle has no problem speaking her mind. She knows her station, and as much as she might try to adhere to the rules of her society she doesn’t let anyone stop her from telling someone when they are wrong. I can appreciate that since it’s one of my biggest character traits.
Ever After puts women in varying and unique roles, and goes to show that women don’t just have to have a single role. The focus in Cinderella is understandably on the princess, but this movie is full of complex and completely different women using their individual gifts (lying, beauty, wit) to get them to where they need to go.
It’s a fairy tale…with a twist
Obviously this is a retelling of Cinderella. The beginning of the film literally has Danielle’s granddaughter telling Danielle’s story to the Brothers Grimm, but this version involves significantly more hope with much less gore. Ever After has all the important parts of the Cinderella tale but gives Danielle a purpose beyond finding a prince. Danielle isn’t the only characters given some personality and agency within the story. Henry (Prince Charming) is forced to grapple with the daunting future he doesn’t want, and while it’s hard to feel bad for a whiny prince his story is interesting.
It wouldn’t be Cinderella without romance and Prince Henry provides. Sure he’s whiny for many of his interactions. The first time we meet him he just stole someone’s horse then paid them off. But like a lot of the best characters he is forced to grow and realize that the world is larger than him, and his future is for him to be miserable or not. Unlike other princes, when Danielle disagrees with him it makes him find her all the more intriguing instead of dismissing her out of hand.
I love watching family drama, especially when it has nothing to with my family. I’ve never had any step-sisters, but I loved the family dynamic of the Baroness and her wretched little daughters (well mostly Marguerite). They are horrible and miserable but they get what they deserve and that is all I really want for a fairy tale.
It’s been nineteen years since it first premiered and I still watch it every couple months or so. It’s the way of our favorite movies that no matter how well I know the story I always get excited for my favorite scenes and lines. I still get a chill when Danielle walks into the ball with her wings and says: