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Ever After: A Cinderella Story is a 1998 film adaptation of the classic "Cinderella" story. Set in Renaissance France, the film eschews the magical elements of the original story and treats the plot as straight Historical Fiction.
The story begins when The Brothers Grimm are invited to the home of a French noblewoman who tells them how much she enjoyed their story of Cinderella, but that they got some details wrong. She then proceeds to tell them this story...
Danielle de Barbarac (Drew Barrymore) is the beloved only child of the widowed Auguste de Barbarac and his late wife, Nicole de Lancret. When she is eight years old, he remarries the Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (portrayed by Anjelica Huston), and brings her home along with her two daughters, spoiled and cruel Marguerite and gentle but weak-willed Jacqueline. Shortly thereafter, he dies, leaving Danielle to the care of her stepmother, who already resents the love that he displays to his daughter, and the estate's three devoted servants - the housemaids, Paulette and Louise, and the retainer, Louise's husband Maurice.
The movie skips ahead ten years, to when Danielle is eighteen. Their estate has fallen onto hard times and things keep "disappearing," to the anger of the Baroness. Danielle has, of course, become a virtual house slave to the family, but takes comfort in the familial love she shares with the servants and the kindness she receives from Jacqueline. One morning, she is gathering apples in the estate's orchard when she spies someone stealing the horse of her late father. Enraged, she chucks apples at him, ultimately causing him to fall. It turns out to be the Crown Prince of France, running away from a father who wants to marry him off. To buy her silence, he gives her a great amount of gold.
Danielle and the Prince meet again when Danielle, disguised as a courtier and using her mother's name, goes to the castle to rescue Maurice, whom the Baroness had sold into slavery to pay off some of her debt. The Prince is intrigued by "Nicole's" beliefs and courage, and asks to meet her again. A courtship ensues, in which Danielle keeps trying to tell Henry that she is really not a countess and the Baroness gets increasingly suspicious of Danielle's odd appearances and disappearances. The King and Queen, desperate to marry their son off, are delighted that he has found a girl... but are keen to meet her, something Danielle wishes to avoid. Meanwhile, Leonardo da Vinci, who has been invited to court, befriends both Danielle and Henry and everything seems to be going along well, save for Danielle's growing anxiety about maintaining the masquerade.
Tropes found in the work include:
- Action Girl: Danielle swims, climbs trees and punches people in the face.
- Archetypal Character: Danielle = Cinderella, obviously.
- Arranged Marriage: Subverted in that, since neither the groom nor bride wants to go through with it, the wedding is canceled midway through the ceremony.
- Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch
- Badass Damsel: Danielle is half this and half Plucky Girl.
- Bedsheet Ladder: Henry uses one to make his getaway when he's rebelling against the arranged marriage. And from his mother's comment this isn't the first time he's done this.
- Berserk Button: "I would rather DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS than see MY MOTHER'S DRESS on that SPOILED SELFISH COW!"
- Beta Couple/Pair the Spares: It's implied that Jacqueline hooks up with Henry's right-hand man Laurent.
- Big No: Danielle does one when Marguerite throws a book into the fire that was the last gift she ever got from her dead father.
- Bilingual Bonus: Princess Gabriella, Prince Henry's Spanish betrothed, doesn't speak a word of English, and she babbles at him during their wedding to explain her heartbreak. No subtitles are used, but it's fairly clear from the context that she's in love with one of her parents' courtiers.
- Or rather she doesn't speak a word of Renaissance-era French (represented by modern English), since a Translation Convention is in effect.
- Her parents' dialogue after Henry cancels the wedding and sends Gabriella to her beloved's arms is pretty funny too, especially the queen repeatedly shouting "Tu culpa!" (your fault) at the king.
- Break the Haughty: Rodmilla, Marguerite, and Henry.
- Call Back: Danielle is the only one to see her father collapse from his fatal heart attack, because she's the only one to watch him ride away, explaining that "It's a tradition - he always waves at the gate." Ten years later, when she goes to the ball, the servants stop Leonardo from going to see Gustave's paintings by exclaiming, "It's a tradition!" Sure enough, at the gate, Danielle waves to them from the carriage.
- Chewing the Scenery: Everyone is occasionally (probably consciously, due to the quick changes between humor and seriousness) guilty of this, child!Danielle in particular.
- Honourable mention to Marguerite, who throws a full-blown temper tantrum with stamping and screaming and yelling in front of the Queen of France. ("There was a bee.")
- Clothes Make the Legend: Danielle's mother's shoes, which give rise to the legend of the fabled "glass slipper."
- Cruel Mercy: Danielle keeps Rodmilla from being shipped off to the Americas... by asking the king to "show her the same courtesy that she has bestowed upon me." Cut to Rodmilla and Marguerite being ushered to their new jobs in the palace laundry.
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 of me every day and for the rest of your life.
- Deceased Parents Are the Best: Danielle reveres her father's memory.
- Did Not Do the Research: Leonardo Da Vinci's Establishing Character Moment involves him unrolling a canvas to reveal the Mona Lisa. Unfortunately, the actual Mona Lisa was painted on a wooden panel, not exactly a medium which can be easily rolled up and stored in a tube. (Though it could have been an early study).
- Another instance of this may be when the Queen mentions that they only do divorce "in England," seemingly a reference to Henry VIII's break from Rome to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. However, this happened in the late 1520s to 1530s, by which time Leonardo was dead. So it is impossible to both have Leonardo as a character and reference Henry's annulment and remarriage to Anne Boleyn (support of which was given by Francis I after Henry VIII visited him in Calais in 1532.)
- Utopia shouldn't be written yet if Leonardo da Vinci is still alive, either.
- Distressed Damsel: Again, subverted: by the time that Henry shows up to rescue Danielle, she has already freed herself. Also, she saves him from gypsies earlier.
- The Dog Bites Back: Jacqueline's response to her mother at the end (see below).
- Dramatic Unmask
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Effortless Amazonian Lift: Played with. When the gypsies tell her she can leave with anything she can carry, she chooses to pick up... Henry. The gypsies are impressed with her audacity and invite them for a meal.
- Empathic Environment: After Henry and Danielle have their big bust-up, it starts pouring.
- Exact Words: When Danielle picks Henry up after being told she can leave with "anything she can carry".
- But since she did not carry her dress, the gypsies get to keep that.
- Famous Ancestor: It's not clear exactly who the woman telling the story to the brothers Grimm is (they address her as "Your Majesty," while the credits identify her as "Grande Dame"), but at the end she refers to Henry and Danielle as being her great-great-grandparents, adding that by the time of "the Revolution," "the truth of their romance had been reduced to a simple Fairy Tale."
- Generation Xerox: According to the Barbarac servants, Danielle looks almost exactly like her mother. Meanwhile, Rodmilla — in the single moment of remote kindness we see her show to her stepdaughter — remarks that Danielle has a lot of her father in her.
- Also, Marguerite behaves a lot like her mother, cruel and vain and placing social status above all else. Subverted by Jacqueline, who resembles her mother at least in coloring, but doesn't act like her; she proves to be very kind and simply lacking the courage to stand up to her mother and sister until close to the end of the film.
- Genre Savvy: Marguerite, to some extent. When discussing what she should wear for the ball, her mother points out that Prince Henry is fond of the color blue, and Marguerite replies that for that exact reason, every girl will be wearing it, so she wants to wear something different in order to stand out.
- Gorgeous Period Dress
- Happily Ever After: Duh.
- Happily Married: King Francis and Queen Marie (despite their periodic snarkiness with each other), Maurice and Louise, and Danielle and Henry clearly establish that they're going to be this in the first few months of their marriage that we see. It's implied that Jacqueline and Laurent will end up this as well.
- Historical Domain Character: If this movie is to be believed, Cinderella's fairy godmother was really Leonardo da Vinci.
- Who also counts as a Cool Old Guy.
- Historical Fiction: The Cinderella story minus the magical elements.
- Hollywood Heart Attack: The death of Danielle's father.
- Humiliation Conga: Rodmilla and Marguerite get it in the end.
- Informed Ability: Danielle is apparently an old hand with the sword, though we never see her use one and it is only mentioned once. It's entirely possible that she's actually bluffing, given that she claims she was trained by her father, who as we've already seen died before he could possibly have taught her that much swordplay.
- Ironic Echo: Jacqueline hands an awesome one to her mother at the end - see below.
- Jerkass: Henry, after he finds out that Danielle is a commoner. He gets better. Also, Rodmilla and Marguerite throughout almost the entire movie. They don't. In Henry's case it does not even make sense, since Danielle's mother was a countess and her father was obviously well born enough to marry first a countess and later a baroness.
- One could argue that it is not the fact that she is a commoner that Henry objects to, rather that Danielle lied to him.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Pretty much everybody gets what they deserve. Rodmilla and Marguerite are forced to work in the palace laundry. Monsieur le Peu traded everything he bought from Rodmilla for Danielle, then lost it all when she escaped. Meanwhile, Jacqueline and the Barbarac servants who essentially raised Danielle all get to live with her in royal comfort, while she and her Prince get their Happily Ever After.
- Kick the Dog: After Danielle has been rejected by Henry and utterly humiliated in front of the entire French court, Rodmilla decides to sell her.
- Not to mention when Danielle asks Rodmilla if she has ever loved her, even a little bit, Rodmilla's response is a cold "How can anyone love a pebble in their shoe?"
- Then there's the whole business of selling off household items on the sly and then punishing the servants for their "theft" by docking their wages...
- Marguerite throws Danielle's favorite (and only) book into the fireplace, even after Danielle surrenders her mother's shoes to her. It's also the last gift she ever got from her father.
- And then Rodmilla gives her a lashing.
- Pretty much all of Rodmilla's interactions with Jacqueline and Danielle.
- Marguerite kicks the dog for both Danielle and Jacqueline at one point, when she tells Danielle that Jacqueline (who was upset that her mother was trying to give Danielle's dress to Marguerite) didn't want Danielle to go to the ball.
- Masquerade Ball
- Memento MacGuffin: The copy of Utopia which was Danielle's last gift from her father; also Danielle's mother's shoes.
- My Breasts Are Down Here: While Danielle prepares to slip off to the castle to rescue Maurice, Marguerite and her mother shop for a large brooch designed to draw the eye to Marguerite's less-than-ample bosom.
- Mythology Gag: Some of the traditional elements of the Cinderella story show up in different places than usual. For instance, in this version Danielle's trip to the ball doesn't end with her exclaiming at the time and doing a runner, but one of her earlier meetings with Henry does.
- The Namesake: The 'Cinderella' title is invoked when we learn that this is Marguerite's nickname for her stepsister. It comes into play when they're having tea with the Queen, who asks them if they know the woman who has so enraptured Henry.
Rodmilla: "She's been around for years. And, staying with us as a matter of fact."
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Utterly averted with Henry, who is fascinated by the way "Nicole" climbs trees, swims alone, and is strong enough to hoist him over her shoulders.
- Parental Abandonment: Danielle is an orphan.
- Perverted Sniffing: Monsieur le Peu a Stalker with a Crush to Danielle sniffs her hair after he buys her.
- Pet the Dog: After Danielle is whipped for punching Marguerite in the face, Jacqueline nurses the lash-marks on her back, adding that Marguerite should never have said what she did about Danielle's mother.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Rodmilla does one of these to Auguste as he lies dying of a heart attack, but it's more selfish than loving, since she's wailing that he "cannot leave [her] here" while basically ignoring his heartbroken young daughter kneeling beside him, and proceeds to be horrible to her for the next ten years.
- The Queen's Latin: Although they are in Renaissance France, everyone (including the Italian Da Vinci) speaks with a British accent. Barrymore's is particularly jarring.
- Rebel Prince: Henry isn't really keen to assume his princely duties, and first meets Danielle when he's running away from home. At first, he's rebellious out of snobbish boredom, but after meeting with Danielle a few times, his rebelliousness grows to be for the good of his kingdom's people.
- Renaissance Man: The original Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci himself, shows up to facilitate the romance.
- Requisite Royal Regalia: The King and Queen, Prince Henry, and newly-titled Princess Danielle are crowned and in full court dress for the public humiliation of Rodmilla and Marguerite.
- Rich Bitch: Rodmilla and Marguerite. Henry may also count as a male example. They all undergo a Break the Haughty process by the end.
- Royal Brat: Marguerite, the older daughter, is an excellent version, even throwing tantrums when she doesn't get what she wants. Thankfully, her younger sister is more sympathetic and is a sort of Snark Knight.
- Prince Henry is a male version, to some extent. After he gets taken down a peg with an AWESOME speech from Leonardo da Vinci (yes, that one), he gets better.
- Say My Name: Danielle, in a heartwarming scene where Prince Henry (in apologizing for being a Jerkass) spontaneously calls Danielle by her real name (instead of Nicole, her mother's name, which he has been using up this point). She begs him to repeat it — not the apology, but the part where he says her name.
- There's also the bit where he tells her to call him Henry instead of "Your Highness" (which is how he demanded she refer to him as when he discovered she was actually a commoner).
- Shrinking Violet: Jacqueline.
- Smug Snake: Le Peu
- Society Is to Blame: What Danielle believes.
Danielle: "A servant is not a thief, your Highness, and those who are cannot help themselves."
- Stalker with a Crush: Monsieur le Peu is implied to be something like this to Danielle, judging by his behavior toward her in the marketplace and then later when he owns her.
- Stealth Pun: The historically homosexual Leonardo da Vinci is Danielle's Fairy Godmother.
- A Taste of the Lash: Marguerite takes Danielle's mother's clothes and taunts Danielle about said mother being dead. Danielle punches her. In the end, her father's favorite book is thrown into the fire and Rodmilla whips her (we don't see the actual event, just a rather disturbing image of a bleeding back). Jacqueline offers medical treatment and support.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Jacqueline catching Laurent's eye at the ball
- Timeshifted Actor: Danielle, Marguerite, Jacqueline, and Danielle's friend Gustave are played by different actors before the time skip. Justified because the characters were children before the Time Skip and adults after.
- Time Skip: We don't see anything between the father's death and Danielle's eighteenth year, a jump of ten years.
- Twice-Told Tale: Cinderella, obviously.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Danielle is the tomboy to Marguerite and Jacqueline.
- The Unfavorite: Jacqueline is obviously not as dear to her mother as Marguerite is.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Alas, poor Gustave.
"No one will be looking at your feet."
- Wicked Stepmother
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Marguerite and Jacqueline's father is evidently deceased prior to the movie, but who's running the barony of Ghent?
- What the Hell, Hero?: Leonardo's speech to Henry after he rejects Danielle is pretty epic.
Prince Henry: "I have been born to privilege, and with that comes specific obligations."
- May also count as a Precision F-Strike - although the actual f-bomb is not dropped, this is the only real instance of profanity in the movie, and leaves both Henry and the audience somewhat stunned.
- Wicked Stepmother
- Yank the Dog's Chain: The ball scene.
- You Got Spunk: Le Peu, as he tells Danielle more than once, likes a girl with spirit.