The first time I saw Ever After: A Cinderella Story, I had to stop watching at one point because it was such a depressing sight to behold. After the heroine Danielle has lost her father, been brutally whipped, had her heart broken, and been completely humiliated in front of the entire kingdom, I was convinced her situation had to start improving. Right? No! After all of that suffering, she gets sold into slavery. Slavery!! I could not believe the depths to which this movie would throw its main character in search of drama. At that point, I simply couldn’t bring myself to watch another second of this film. It was unbearable to watch such a likable character suffer so much injustice.
It took some serious convincing to get me to come back and finish the film, but I’m glad I did because shortly after the main character hit rock bottom for the dozenth time, she finally climbed out of the hole and found her well-deserved happy ending.
I was emotionally drained after watching this film. It marches from despair to triumph and back to despair so many times I lost track. Needless to say, I had no intention of going back and watching it again. But the same family that loved watching Newsies also loved Ever After, so I watched it with them a few times. And, surprisingly, it started to grow on me. I discovered that not everything in this film is as depressing as it seems at first. There’s actually a lot to smile about and enjoy in between the dark moments. I would like to share a few things I learned to love about Ever After so you, too, can enjoy this delightful little film.
Ups and Downs
Not everything in this film is depressing. There are plenty of triumphs, like when Danielle rescues a fellow house-servant from slavery, rescues a prince from a group of marauding Gypsies (and wins the Gypsies’ hearts in so doing), has a heart-to-heart talk with her not-so-wicked stepsister, and shows her expertise with a sword. I like how the good and bad balance each other out from scene to scene. There’s not too much of one or the other, which leaves you in suspense because it seems like either good or evil could triumph, given their win-and-loss record throughout the film. The heroes eventually come out on top and they manage to turn the villains’ schemes against them in the end. It’s a very satisfying conclusion.
Prince Henry is annoying, but I think that’s the point of his character. He’s a whiny, annoying young man who tries to do the right thing, even though he’s usually just looking out for his own interests. His “woe is me” routine gets old after a while because it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has a life of luxury handed to him. What’s to complain about? If you don’t like the fact that you’re about to get so much while others have so little, think about ways to help those who don’t have much and give them opportunities to reach higher. Don’t throw away your birthright! Danielle’s advice to Henry finally wakes him up from his delusions, and it is nice to see the changes that occur in him. He always had a latent sense of justice and honor, as is shown when he rescued the Mona Lisa painting for Leonardo da Vinci. He just needed to apply it to a worthy cause to bring out the best in himself.
Leonardo da Vinci
I like the portrayal of Leonardo da Vinci as an eccentric grandfather figure. His contributions to the Prince’s development are touching and insightful. He provides a nice commentary on the proceedings and he says many things that the audience is thinking. I particularly love the scene where he confronts Prince Henry after Danielle is revealed to be a servant girl. Henry cold-heartedly cast Danielle away in her moment of vulnerability, and Leonardo calls him out on his hypocrisy and betrayal. That scene is the real turning point for Henry. He finally starts to look into his heart and discover what he needs to change in order to be worthy of Danielle. Thank goodness for Leonardo da Vinci, the great artist who would “go down in history as the man who opened a door” to a selfish prince’s heart.
Danielle’s ultimate victory isn’t in condemning her wicked stepmother and stepsister to slavery. That’s a fitting fate for those two vile people after what they tried to do to Danielle and one of their servants at the beginning of the film. Danielle’s true victory is found in these powerful words, which she says just before sending them away: “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.” Danielle is not a victim. She came through a terrible ordeal and used the experience to become a better person. She will not allow these bullies to harm her anymore through painful memories. Danielle found marital happiness and a life of luxury, not because she spent all of her time trying to attain them, as her stepmother and stepsister did, but because she is a good person and deserves those things. That fact will forever gall her unworthy half-relatives.
Happily Ever After
Everything comes together beautifully in Ever After to create a majestic portrait. The music, performances, dialogue, story, characters, direction, and production quality are all top notch. There’s some sort of magical quality to this film that elevates it above other similar films. I’ve seen a lot of romantic comedies that fail to live up to that name, being neither romantic nor comedic. Happily, Ever After rises above typical films of the genre and becomes something more.
This is the Deja Reviewer wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day and bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All images from Ever After are the copyright of Twentieth Century Fox.