Drew Barrymore has carved a niche for herself as the underdog in rom com territory - not as artificially pumped up, or as scarily skinny, as the usual romantic heroine (Amanda Siefreid being the latest example), Barrymore remains refreshingly, stubbornly wholesome, solid and imperfect, a heroine every ordinary girl can believe in and dream of being. Barrymore's beauty, when it is revealed in her movies, is achievable. She may be the class clown, a dork or a badly dressed loser, but she scrubs up well.
All of which makes her the perfect choice for Cinderella in this charming retelling of the old tale. Most movie Cinderellas leave you wondering where she found the strength to carry a mop, let alone a bucket of water. Barrymore makes it quite clear that years of hard work have made Cinderella - or Danielle, as she is called here - strong, sturdy and capable of knocking a prince off a horse with a well aimed apple.
The story begins with the Brothers Grimm called into the presence of an aging dowager (Jeanne Moreau) as she lies on her death bed. She takes them to task for their version of Cinderella, and proceeds to tell them the true story of her grandmother, Danielle, and how she won the hard of a very picky prince (Dougray Scott). Danielle, according to the dowager, was a girl who "loved her father very much."
But when father returns he brings with him the Baroness Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston) and her daughters. On the sudden death of her father Danielle is made a slave in her own home, continually waiting on her stepsister Marguerite, a spoilt beauty who sets her cap at Prince Henry, with her mother's help.
But Henry is waylaid by Danielle's charm, beauty and passion, and she finds herself caught up in a pretence of nobility, as she struggles to hold together the only home she has ever known, and with her feelings for the prince. Her 'fairy godmother' turns out to be Leonardo Da Vinci, who sees no reason why a prince shouldn't marry a charming, intelligent girl, even if she is not of noble birth.
Ever After is one of the happiest fairy tales on film, as timeless as the tales that inspired it. Somehow it never looks dated or silly, and it captures Barrymore at the peak of her girl-next-door radiance.