September 27th, 2007 at 10:22 am (Movies)
This is a retelling of the Cinderella story with a 16th century French setting. Danielle (Cinderella) is made to work as a servant in her own household by her stepmother and stepsisters, but takes solace in the books of philosophy and science that her father left her. Prince Henry, the heir to the French throne, is unhappy with his “gilded cage” and habitually runs away. One of the times he runs away, he meets Danielle on her family’s estate (as he is stealing a horse). He clearly doesn’t pay that much attention to her, but when they encounter later and she is pretending to be a fine lady in order to save a servant who was sold away, he definitely notices her as she lectures him. He consistently pursues her until she eventually falls in love with him. All the time, both of them are dodging the stepmother and her daughter (who is trying to win the prince). The problem here is that Danielle gives Henry a false name when she’s pretending to be a fine lady and must thereafter continue the charade whenever they meet. This, of course, causes many problems. But it’s a fairy tale, so all things work out in the end.
I liked that this movie told the story completely without the use of any magic or exaggeration on the part of the characters. The stepmother and stepsister were horrible people, but also totally believable people. There was nothing about their cruelty that I couldn’t believe. The same went for pretty much the whole cast of characters. They had strengths and flaws every one, no one was completely without blemish (even Danielle and Henry) and no one was without something that made them understandable and pitiable (even if they were still pretty despicable). I also loved that the strongest characters in the movie were the women. Danielle was perfectly capable of taking care of herself and clearly a smart woman. She even rescues herself near the end just as the prince rides up on his noble stead to rescue her. The stepmother and stepsister were willful and cunning in many ways, even if it was clear from the outset that they were doomed to failure. Their strength made them all the more frightening. The queen of France was also far more interesting and appeared more observant and competent than her husband (or her son). It was clear that she was not simply there as a royal social director, she obviously had a real hand in what was going on. That’s an awesome thing to see in a fairy tale and a movie with a historical setting!
I really like this movie. It’s one of my favorite full-length fairy tale retelling movies. I think they did a great job with every aspect of it – the writing, the acting, the sets and especially the costumes (I want a dress like Danielle’s ballgown some day!). I am perfectly happy with the romanticised story and the way everything turns out happily ever after (which are sometimes criticized about this movie) because it’s a fairy tale! That’s the way it’s supposed to be! I’d be annoyed if the bad guys didn’t get punished, but they did, and it was a great realistic punishment! I love this movie and highly recommend it!