If you are a girl, you will like this movie. If you are a guy (and I mean a guy’s guy, not a sensitive guy), you will be forced to see this movie and secretly kind of enjoy it but not really. This is just how it is with movies with strong women characters, I am sorry to say. It has a dollop of magic (not like Disney’s Cinderella but more general magic) and a lot of beautiful 16th century France pageantry and beauty, and a boatload of reversals of traditional gender roles. Ooh – and Richard O’Brien! This movie really spoke to me personally, so I am sure I liked it more than some of you might – but a male friend of mine was nutso loving it to so, who knows.
Drew Barrymore gives a layered performance as Danielle, aka Cinderella. Drew has that perfect blend of cherubic charm, sexual confidence, and scarred strength from childhood adversity to pull off this role. Dougray Scott is foxy and sensitive and two dimensional, just like any movie heroine, but at least we actually get a glimpse as to why Danielle would love him so. The story is presented 6 generations hence, as an aged queen corrects the fairy tale storytellers as to how the story really went. No pumpkins and mice here, but certainly a wicked, wicked stepmother, two differently unpleasant stepsisters, and an absent loving father. Anjelica Huston is perfect – her stern, cold face has been woefully miscast in the past but here is a conniving matriarch to counterbalance Danielle’s determination. And the costumes! Oh my god!!! 16th century France may have smelled like ass but it looked beautiful! Jenny Beavan does some amazing work.
Audiences will be relieved to know that the MTV pop music stylings seen in the preview are not present in the film (though there is a jarring pop song over the credits) – the rest of the time it’s nice traditional forgettable score. Some of the dialogue used in the preview also is taken out of context so it’s not as goofy hokey as it seems like it would be either. Enough of that – more about why I loved it and why women will love it and men, well….
The issues addressed in this movie are about womanhood and finding a mate and the nature/nurture aspects of parenting, about love and respect and being a hero to oneself and all kinds of great pop psychology stuff that just happened to strike a number of chords for me personally. Having said that, I am sure everyone has experienced literally or metaphorically some of what our Danielle goes through in this film, and for all of you out there who also feel a thrum within your chest when your inner life is projected so nicely on screen, pay full price. I would pay full price again. As for you men, if you can get past the testosterone haze and appreciate hearty women characters (because, like it or not, *those* are the women you want to be with, not these fluttering anorexic victims in high heels running and screaming), you will also like this movie. Barrymore really is the perfect actress for this part, even if her dialect isn’t perfect (of course, it’s Hollywood, so French people have British accents). Dougray might make you feel inadequate but you may actually secretly identify with his issues, if not his basket.
Cinderella is a classic story for a reason, but this modern interpretation somehow feels more true. How could this have become a legend unless it had some strength and moxie- Disney discredited the feisty forgotten daughter with her weak, helpless hopes that the prince will rescue her. Parents who remember how the story traditionally goes will appreciate that no one cuts off their heel to fit into the shoe, or any other such random fate nonsense. It’s not grrrrl power, nor is it the marriage-is-the-only-way-out model of girlhodd – it’s what we all should recognize in each other – merit, passion, character, and caring. Guys, bring your gals and just see it.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/31/98
Time in minutes 100
Director Andy Tennant
Studio 20th Century Fox