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An Empowering Costume Drama,
This review is from: Ever After - A Cinderella Story (DVD)
Those responsible for the casting and historical setting of this version of "Cinderella" must own the same book on The Renaissance that I own from the National Geographic Society. I say this because on one particular page on the Court of the real King Francis I, there is featured a painting called "Three Female Musicians", in which three dark-haired, dark-eyed ladies play instruments. The casting of Melanie Lynskey as Jacqueline de Ghent, the Good Stepsister, could well have been inspired by this painting. The same page also features an engraving of a tennis match such as the one featured in this film, which French nobles would have played in the 16th Century.
As the heroine of the tale, a still-baby-faced Drew Barrymore delivers a fine, charismatic performance as the scullery maid who will not be broken by the authority of her cruel stepmother(Observe,the French don't have a word for "stepmother", so there is a certain irony to the fact that this story takes place in France).
Anjelica Huston matches acting genes with Drew Barrymore as the conniving, overindulged stepmother of noble blood who uses her servants as pawns and refuses to cut her losses in order to adapt to economic adversity. It should be obvious to a viewer that she could have made the three young girls in her care work together to maintain the manor rather than pit them against each other.
As the Older Evil Stepsister, Marguerite, Megan Dodds was an interesting choice for the part because her pinched-faced cruelty is obvious to the audience, but not so readily obvious to the handsome Prince Henry, played by a befuddled but good-intentioned Dougray Scott, nor to the King and Queen, played by the appropriately strong and regal Timothy West and Judy Parfitt. Dodds'perfomance reminds me of the old adage, "An indulgent mother makes a sluttish daughter."
Melanie Lynskey's performance as the good Stepsister along with the performances of the actors who play the three servants, is one of the redeeming qualities of the otherwise miserable household. The presence of da Vinci in the story adds a divine benevolence to this tale, and as a child, I did read a version of "Cinderella" in which a male figure had the role of the Fairy Godmother.
I have wondered why the accents of the principals were English rather than French. But ultimately, we watch an assertive young woman with a keen intellectual ability form a necessary and loving alliance with a Prince which appropriately takes place over time, proving her mettle against both his tormenters and her own, going out of her way to rescue those she loves, inspiring a childhood friend to do the same on her behalf, encouraging the understanding of societal outcasts, improving the quality of life for her small circle of friends, and justly putting her tormentors in their rightful places.
This is a beautiful movie--a da Vinci painting come to life. However flawed it may be, it should inspire any viewer to great things!