Ever After: A Cinderella Story is a 1998 film adaptation of the fairy tale Cinderella, directed by Andy Tennant and starring Drew Barrymore. The screenplay is written by Tennant, Susannah Grant, and Rick Parks. The original music score is composed by George Fenton. The film's tagline is "Desire. Defy. Escape."
The usual pantomime and comic elements are removed and the story is instead treated as historical fiction, rife with anachronisms. It is often seen as a modern, post-feminism interpretation of the Cinderella myth.
Danielle de Barbarac is a precocious eight-year-old raised by her father in a small manor in rural Renaissance France. Her mother died early in Danielle's life, and as a result the two are very close. Her father remarries to a baroness with two young daughters Danielle's age. Shortly after bringing them home, he dies of a heart attack, leaving Danielle with a stepmother and stepsisters she barely knows.
The Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (Anjelica Huston) resents Danielle, as she is jealous of the love Danielle's father felt for her. By the time Danielle is eighteen, the baroness has forced her into servitude and driven the home into financial difficulty. Danielle now has very few possessions to call her own: her father's copy of Utopia, by Thomas More, a beautiful gown and slippers that had been her mother's wedding clothes, and the loyalty of the manor's three remaining servants. Rodmilla's elder daughter, Marguerite (Megan Dodds), is as cruel and arrogant as her mother, while the second daughter, Jacqueline (Melanie Lynskey), is sweet-tempered, but has a low self esteem because of her mother's emotional abuse and her favoring of Marguerite.
One morning Danielle has a chance meeting with Henry, the Prince of France (Dougray Scott), in the apple orchard when he steals her father's horse while running away. She knocks him off the horse by pelting him with the apples she'd picked all the while calling him "thief." After he is revealed as the Crown Prince, he bribes Danielle for her silence, and rides off with the horse. Not very far, Henry comes across an artist's caravan that had been waylaid by Gypsies, and upon the urgent pleas of the elderly artist, recovers a stolen painting, which turns out to be the Mona Lisa. The aged artist who asked for help is Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey), on his way to the French court to see the king. Upon returning the painting, the king's guards capture Henry.
Danielle decides to use the bribe money to ensure the return of Maurice, an aged servant whom Rodmilla sold to pay off her growing debts. She borrows a courtier's gown from her best friend Gustave (Lee Ingleby) and poses as a countess to visit the castle. Henry has a second chance meeting with Danielle when she is arguing for Maurice's release, unaware that she is the same person he met earlier in the day. Henry is charmed by Danielle's passionate and contrary nature and orders Maurice's freedom. He begs Danielle for her name. A flustered Danielle gives Henry her mother's name, Nicole de Lancrét, before running off.
It is revealed that the reason Henry ran away is because he refuses to go through an arranged marriage with Princess Gabriella of Spain. King Francis, Henry's father, is frustrated with his son's stubbornness, but agrees to give Henry five days to choose his own bride. The king will announce Henry's engagement at a masquerade ball, either to a girl of Henry's choice or to the Spanish princess. Invitations to the ball are sent out to all "eligible' ladies", including Danielle, her stepmother and stepsisters. Rodmilla and Marguerite realize they have an opportunity for Marguerite to become Henry's wife, and begin to scheme.
Henry and Danielle have another chance meeting, further realizing their affections for one another. A series of secret meetings follow as the plot progresses. Danielle eventually realizes that Henry doesn't deserve her deception as "Nicole", and resolves to inform him of her true identity. She is also in a compromising position as her absences from home are noticed by the baroness. Henry's love also gives Danielle the courage to stand up against her abusive stepmother and sister, but her growing insubordination leads to trouble and the two punishing her by burning her father’s book, stealing her mother’s gown and slippers and having her whipped. A livid, but powerless Jacqueline tends to Danielle's wounds.
Rodmilla eventually figures out that the mysterious countess Henry has fallen for, "Nicole", is really Danielle. She attempts to sabotage the union by informing Queen Marie that "Nicole" has left France to marry another man, which the Queen then relays to a devastated Henry. In reality, the baroness locks Danielle in the manor's pantry on the evening of the ball to keep her from the event. The servants rally together and get Gustave to find da Vinci, who helps free Danielle and get her ready for the ball.
Danielle arrives wearing the gown and slippers that her friends had stolen back for her, but she is exposed as a servant by Rodmilla before Henry and the entire court. After a hurt Henry publicly rejects Danielle, she runs from the scene humiliated, leaving behind one of her slippers. The slipper is found by da Vinci, who reprimands Henry for abandoning Danielle when she had risked everything to come and tell him who she really was.
Furious at the disgrace Danielle has brought upon the family, Rodmilla sells her to a nobleman named Monsieur Pierre Le Pieu (Richard O'Brien); it is revealed that "missing" items that the baroness had claimed were stolen earlier in the film were in fact sold to Monsieur Le Pieu to pay off debts. Le Pieu gladly trades the items for Danielle, whom he'd been after throughout the story. At his castle, Danielle comes trudging into the hall in chains (she had tried to run away) with an armload of swords. Le Pieu tries to kiss her, but Danielle later turns the tables on him with the sword skills that she learned from her father, who had been a expert swordsman, winning the key to her chains.
Henry and Gabriella are shown in a lavish wedding ceremony, where the princess is sobbing loudly and uncontrollably. Henry realizes she is just as miserable in marrying someone she doesn't love and stops the ceremony, freeing her and allowing her to marry the man of her choice. Still in love with Danielle himself and seeing the truth of da Vinci's words, he sets out to find her. When Danielle was sold, a furious Jacqueline finally gains the courage to stand up to her mother and sister and tells Henry about Danielle's whereabouts (whom he tells not to speak of meeting him) and the prince sets out to Monsieur Le Pieu’s manor. Danielle meets Henry as she is exiting the Le Pieu residence. Henry asks for her forgiveness as well as her hand in marriage, presenting to her with the slipper she left behind on the night of the ball. The two are presumably married in a secret ceremony to prevent the baroness and Marguerite from finding out.
It is eventually revealed through Danielle and Jacqueline that the baroness lied to Queen Marie about Danielle leaving the country as well as Danielle's noble status as her father's heir (also the fact that she was whipped). Rodmilla, Marguerite and Jacqueline are summoned to a requested meeting, thinking Henry has chosen Marguerite as his bride. Instead, the two are publicly humiliated, stripped of their titles, and condemned to be shipped to the Americas, "unless someone here will speak for you." As the baroness looks around desperately, it becomes apparent that she had made many enemies among the courtiers, as not one of them speaks a word to defend her or her daughter. Finally, a voice speaks, and all of the courtiers bow as Danielle -- rather, Crown Princess Danielle -- enters. She tells Rodmilla that after this meeting, she will forget her but that the baroness will always think of her, and asks the king and queen to show her stepmother the same courtesy that she has bestowed upon Danielle. Thus, instead of being sent to the Americas, mother and daughter are sentenced to a life of servitude in the palace's laundry room as punishment.
Meanwhile, Jacqueline is rewarded for her kindness by being allowed to live at the palace and is given ownership of the de Barbarac lands (which she is in the process of restoring by the end of the film). She had also fallen in love with the captain of the royal guard at the masquerade ball, and it may be assumed that they are later married. The de Barbarac servants and Gustave (who has become da Vinci's apprentice) are also brought to live at the palace. Danielle and Henry are presumed to live happily ever after while da Vinci unveils a portrait he painted of her. At the final shot, the Grimm Brothers leave the aged woman's castle, and it is revealed that the woman is Danielle and Henry's great great granddaughter.
Prince Henry, portrayed by Dougray Scott, is the Crown Prince of France, and originally betrothed to Princess Gabriella of Spain. Henry is quick to run away from problems, and wants to live life as a rich Prince with control of the country, but without the responsibility. At the beginning, he is a whiny, spoiled brat who thinks everyone has a better life than he does. Upon meeting Danielle, he changes gears quickly, including setting new laws regarding prisoners and planning a university open to all classes of people. Danielle ultimately changes him for the better.
Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent, portrayed by Angelica Huston, is the beautiful and cruel stepmother of Danielle. Rodmilla seems to favor her graceful daughter Marguerite over the awkward Jacqueline, and sees her way into the royal family only through Marguerite. Rodmilla is jealous of Danielle because her late father loved her over Rodmilla.
Marguerite (Francoise Louise) de Ghent, portrayed by Megan Dodds, is Rodmilla's eldest daughter. A louder version of her mother, Marguerite has an incredibly short fuse, all with the elegant meanness of her mother. In contrast, however, she is reasonably immature when not putting on a show for society in public, and often has rather scary fits.
Jacqueline de Ghent, portrayed by Melanie Lynskey, is Rodmilla's second daughter. Unlike Marguerite, Jacqueline is quiet, mature for her age, and has a friendship with Danielle. She likes food, and her sister and mother often taunt her about her weight. She tries to please her mother, but Rodmilla constantly is exasperated by her. She does sometimes get out of character and throws a minor fit about being overlooked by Rodmilla.
Leonardo da Vinci, portrayed by Patrick Godfrey, is a wise man with a knack for inventing strange things. He is seen in this Cinderella tale as the "fairy godmother" archetype who comes to the rescue before the masked ball. He paints a portrait of Danielle which is later hung at the university until the Revolution.
Maurice, Louise, and Paulette, portrayed by Walter Sparrow, Matyelok Gibbs and Kate Lansbury respectively, are De Barbarac servants, who also suffer through Rodmilla's poor treatment of them. They are Danielle's closest allies in the house. Maurice and Louise are married.
Gustave, portrayed by Lee Ingleby, is Danielle's childhood friend. Danielle always wrestled him in their childhood and won, and they have a brother/sister-like relationship. Gustave is an aspiring painter and admires Leonardo da Vinci.
Monsieur Pierre Le Pieu, portrayed by Richard O'Brien, is an ugly baron whom it is implied has had a salacious eye on Danielle for some time. He and Rodmilla come to a secret deal to ultimately sell Danielle to him in exchange for several items he had originally purchased from Rodmilla when she fell into debt.
King Francis and Queen Marie of France, portrayed by Timothy West and Judy Parfitt respectively, are Prince Henry's parents. The King of France is portrayed as a strict-yet-soft King who tries to control his adolescent son, Henry. He is a bit bumbling but always tries to be intimidating. The Queen, his counterpart, is a mature, concerned, wise woman.
Auguste de Barbarac, portrayed by Jeroen Krabbé, is Danielle's father. He dies of a heart attack early on in the film, when Danielle is still a child and he has just married Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent. He loves his daughter and instilled in her a love of reading.
The painting of Danielle seen in the film is based on da Vinci's Head of a Young Woman with Tousled Hair.