It may be 2011, but it seems like almost everything I’m watching this summer is from 1998. A few weeks ago, I bought a 99¢ video tape of Ever After at a thrift store. I’m not sure how much life my VCR has left, but you can’t beat the price of used tapes these days. I saw a matinee of Ever After on the day it opened, and I was charmed. Watching it again after all these years, it still cheers me up. Considering how dismal San Francisco is right now, this can’t be a bad thing.
Of all the fairy tales and princess stories, Cinderella resonates the most with me. I’m not sure why, but it’s probably because I grew up watching the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon. It used to be shown on television every year. The Disney cartoon had less of an impact, probably because animated faces have never appealed to me as much as the real thing. Ever After gives the Cinderella story a feminist spin. This girl is not passively waiting for her prince to come rescue her from drudgery. When he comes to save her in the end, she’s already rescued herself. There are no fairy godmothers or magic carriages made of pumpkins, although Leonardo da Vinci could be seen as a kind of fairy godfather.
One of my favorite characters in Ever After is Melanie Lynskey as stepsister Jacqueline. It’s refreshing to see a stepsister who thinks for herself and shows some compassion, rather than being simply nasty and one-dimensional. Lynskey’s expressions are delightful to watch throughout the film, especially because she seems to be having such a good time.
Dougray Scott is handsome and appealing as the prince, and his chemistry with Drew Barrymore makes the movie work. For several years after Ever After, I searched out his films assuming he’d play a similar romantic lead. I had high hopes for Enigma, but I didn’t like it very much. Who knows what might have happened if he’d played Wolverine in X-Men, instead of dropping out when the filming of Mission Impossible II fell behind schedule. I had a friend about ten years ago who simply adored him, and it was always “Doo-gray” this and “Doo-gray” that. Or was it “Doog-ray”? I couldn’t compete with her passion or her insistence on the correct pronunciation of his name. ( Here’s a video where Dougray Scott says his own name, and he should be the final authority.) Like other Scottish actors I’ve blogged about, including Ewan McGregor and James McAvoy, I wish Scott was able to use his real accent more often. Anyway, I have to mention his costuming in Ever After. I found this quote at IMDb: “I had never worn a codpiece before and I don’t think I ever will again.” It’s definitely a distraction!
Almost as entertaining as the movie is the page of “goofs” at IMDb. I seriously doubt that anyone watching the film expects it to be historically accurate. It is interesting to learn that there was a French king named Francis who had Leonardo da Vinci at court, but it’s not really crucial. I do have to argue with the “goof” about the Prince being introduced to servants. Marguerite points out the servants to boast about the family’s possessions, and the Prince says he’d like to meet them because of Danielle’s influence, since she keeps scolding him about his attitude toward the common people. Marguerite probably should have sipped liquid chocolate instead of chewing a solid piece, but the moment wouldn’t have been as funny. People love to debate the origins of Rock Paper Scissors, and scissors themselves, in various forms, have been around since ancient Egypt.
Ever After isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s perfect for the summer doldrums. I’m perfectly happy with my VHS tape, too. I may lose some beautiful scenery off the edges, but that’s okay. For me, it’s all about those faces!