|Directed by||Andy Tennant|
by Charles Perrault
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Edited by||Roger Bondelli|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$98 million|
Ever After (known in promotional material as Ever After: A Cinderella Story) is a 1998 American romantic drama film inspired by the Cinderella fairy tale. Andy Tennant directed it, and it stars Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, and Jeanne Moreau. Tennant, Susannah Grant, and Rick Parks wrote the screenplay. George Fenton composed the original music score. The film's closing theme song, "Put Your Arms Around Me", is performed by the rock band Texas.
The film removes the Cinderella tale's usual pantomime and comic/supernatural elements and instead treats the story as historical fiction, set in Renaissance-era France. It's often seen as a modern, post-feminist interpretation of the Cinderella story.
During 19th century France, the Grande Dame summons the Brothers Grimm to discuss their interpretation of “Cinderella”. Showing them a glass slipper, she tells the story of Danielle de Barbarac: In 1502 Renaissance-era France, eight-year-old Danielle is the daughter of Auguste de Barbarac, a wealthy widower. He brings home his new wife, Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent, and her daughters Marguerite and Jacqueline and gives Danielle a copy of Sir Thomas More's Utopia. While leaving for business a fortnight later, Auguste suffers a fatal heart attack approaching the gate and delivers his dying declaration of love to Danielle, sparking Rodmilla's resentment.
Ten years later, the de Barbarac manor is in debt under Rodmilla's negligence and expensive lifestyle. Rodmilla forces Danielle to work as a servant; she and Marguerite abuse Danielle, but Jacqueline treats her kindly. Danielle stops a man stealing her father's horse, only to realize he is Prince Henry of France, who gives her 20 gold francs for her silence. Fleeing a marriage arranged by his parents, King Francis and Queen Marie, to Princess Gabriella of Spain, Henry stops to help Leonardo da Vinci recover the Mona Lisa from gypsy bandits and gets caught. Disguising herself as a noblewoman, Danielle takes the gold to buy back her family servant Maurice, whom Rodmilla sold into slavery. Henry witnesses the argument between Danielle and the slave cart driver and intervenes, not recognizing Danielle. Intrigued by her, Henry orders Maurice's release and begs for her name; Danielle lies and gives her late mother's name, Comtesse Nicole de Lancret. King Francis announces a masquerade ball, where Henry must choose a bride by midnight or wed Gabriella, compelling Rodmilla to scheme to marry Marguerite to Henry.
Danielle’s friend Gustave tells Henry where the "Comtesse de Lancret" lives, forcing her to run home and change clothes in time to accompany Henry to a Franciscan monastery’s library. The gypsies accost them, but Danielle impresses them into inviting her and Henry to their camp, where the two share their first kiss. The next day, Danielle defies Rodmilla and Marguerite when they steal her late mother's dress and shoes for the ball. Danielle attacks Marguerite until she threatens to throw Auguste's book into the fire, forcing Danielle to surrender her mother’s shoes; Marguerite burns the book anyway, and Rodmilla whips Danielle. Jacqueline bonds with Danielle while tending to her wounds. Discovering Danielle is the mysterious courtier Henry is pursuing, Rodmilla lies to Queen Marie that the “Comtesse” is engaged.
Danielle meets with Henry to confess her identity, but he interrupts that she has given his life a new purpose. Unable to tell him the truth, Danielle flees. When she refuses to tell Rodmilla and Marguerite where she has hidden the gown and shoes, Rodmilla locks Danielle in the pantry. Gustave finds Leonardo, who frees Danielle and makes her a pair of wings to wear with her mother's dress and slippers to the ball. Danielle tries confessing to Henry again at the ball, but Rodmilla exposes her fraud, and Henry rejects her. Humiliated, Danielle flees, leaving a slipper behind. Henry resigns himself to marrying Gabriella but calls off the wedding upon realizing she also loves someone else.
He searches for Danielle, whom Rodmilla sold to the lecherous Pierre le Pieu. Pierre attempts to force himself on Danielle, but she frees herself after threatening him with his swords. Henry finds her, apologizes for his behavior, and proposes to her by placing the slipper on her foot. King Francis summons Rodmilla and her daughters, accusing her of lying to Queen Marie about Danielle. The queen strips Rodmilla of her title and threatens to banish her and Marguerite to the Americas. Danielle enters, now a princess, and requests a more fitting penalty: sentencing Rodmilla and Marguerite to work as servants in the palace laundry. Danielle spares Jacqueline, who begins a romance with Laurent, the captain of the guards she met at the ball. Leonardo gives the royal newlyweds a portrait of Danielle.
The Grande Dame explains that Danielle was her great-great-grandmother, whose portrait hung in the university Henry built until the French Revolution erupted, and declares that while Henry and Danielle did live happily ever after, the point is that they lived.
While the story is fictional, it involves several historical figures, places and events. The film is set in the 16th and 19th centuries and features the presences of Francis I, King Henry (later Henry II of France), Leonardo da Vinci, The Brothers Grimm, as well as allusions to the explorer Jacques Cartier, fairy tale collector Charles Perrault, the French colonies in the New World, and the French Revolution.
Though the main portion of the film takes place in early 1500s France, the royals shown are most likely not meant to be the historical figures for which they are named. King Francis I summoned Leonardo da Vinci to his court around 1516, 3 years before King Henry II was born; neither of King Francis I's wives were named Marie (the first was named Claude and the second Eleanor). King Henry II was married to Catherine de' Medici at the age of 14, and had no known children with Diane de Poitiers, a French noblewoman of great influence and the historical figure most likely represented by Danielle.
- Drew Barrymore as Danielle de Barbarac
- Dougray Scott as Crown Prince Henry
- Anjelica Huston as Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent
- Megan Dodds as Marguerite de Ghent
- Melanie Lynskey as Jacqueline de Ghent
- Patrick Godfrey as Leonardo da Vinci
- Lee Ingleby as Gustave
- Richard O'Brien as Monsieur Pierre Le Pieu
- Timothy West as King Francis
- Judy Parfitt as Queen Marie
- Jeroen Krabbé as Auguste de Barbarac
- Jeanne Moreau as Grande Dame
- Toby Jones as Royal Page
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Ever After was filmed in Super 35.
Locations and sets
The castle shown in the film is the Château de Hautefort in the Dordogne region of France. Other featured châteaux are de Fénelon, de Losse, de Lanquais, de Beynac as well as the city of Sarlat-la-Canéda. The painting of Danielle is based on Leonardo Da Vinci's Head of a Woman (La Scapigliata).
Rotten Tomatoes reports that 91% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 65 reviews, with an average score of 7.56/10. The critical consensus states: "Ever After is a sweet, frothy twist on the ancient fable, led by a solid turn from star Barrymore." Metacritic calculated a favorable score of 66 based on 22 reviews.
Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B-, saying: "Against many odds, Ever After comes up with a good one. This novel variation is still set in the once-upon-a-time 16th century, but it features an active, 1990s-style heroine—she argues about economic theory and civil rights with her royal suitor—rather than a passive, exploited hearth sweeper who warbles 'A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes'." She also praised Anjelica Huston's performance as a cruel stepmother: "Huston does a lot of eye narrowing and eyebrow raising while toddling around in an extraordinary selection of extreme headgear, accompanied by her two less-than-self-actualized daughters—the snooty, social-climbing, nasty Marguerite, and the dim, lumpy, secretly nice Jacqueline. "Nothing is final until you're dead", Mama instructs her girls at the dinner table, "and even then I'm sure God negotiates."
Chicago Sun-Times film critic, Roger Ebert, praises the film with three out of four stars and writes, "The movie [...] is one of surprises, not least that the old tale still has life and passion in it. I went to the screening expecting some sort of soppy children's picture and found myself in a costume romance with some of the same energy and zest as The Mask of Zorro. And I was reminded again that Drew Barrymore can hold the screen and involve us in her characters. [...] Here, as the little cinder girl, she is able to at last put aside her bedraggled losers and flower as a fresh young beauty, and she brings poignancy and fire to the role."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
On March 3, 1999, the film was released on DVD & VHS. On January 4, 2011, the movie was released on Blu-ray. Ever After became available for streaming on Disney+ beginning September 18, 2020, following The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019.
A report in 2012 indicated that a musical theatre production was in the works, with the book and lyrics by Marcy Heisler and music by Zina Goldrich. The musical was originally scheduled for its world premiere in April 2009 at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, but the pre-Broadway run was postponed. In May 2012, the project was back on track with Kathleen Marshall signing on to direct a Broadway run.
A workshop of the musical was held from April 25, 2013 – May 15, 2013 with Sierra Boggess as Danielle, Jeremy Jordan as Prince Henry, and Ashley Spencer as Marguerite. The musical made its world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse from May 21, 2015 – June 21, 2015. Christine Ebersole played the role of Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent. Alongside Ebersole, Margo Seibert starred as Danielle, James Snyder as Henry, Charles Shaughnessy as King Francis, and Tony Sheldon as Leonardo da Vinci. Another production of the musical played at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre from January 15, 2019 to February 19. The production was directed by Susan V. Booth and starred Sierra Boggess as Danielle de Barbarac, Terry Burrell as Queen Marie, Todd Buonopane as Captain Laurent, David Garrison as Leonardo da Vinci, Chris Kayser as King Francis, Jeff McCarthy as Pierre Malette, Tim Rogan as Prince Henry and Rachel York as Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent. 
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