Anne T. Donahue
June 04, 2015 6:12 am

I was obsessed (obsessed) with Cinderella as a kid. I memorized it, acted it out in front of the television, and was convinced Cinderella would’ve ended up way happier without the Prince because he was super boring. (Even as a four-year-old I picked that up.)

But by the time Ever After came out, I was kind of over it. The idea of another Cinderella movie seemed INSANE, so you can imagine my surprise (not at all) that when magazines like Seventeen and YM had begun championing it, I ran along with them. Maybe this version of Cinderella would be different! Maybe it would be more interesting! Maybe Drew Barrymore would be even better than she was in The Wedding Singer, my current favourite movie.

Spoiler alert: Ever After lived up to its hype. (Even though for the record, the character of Julia Soon-To-Be-Gulia is topped by no one.) And even though I missed out on seeing it in theatres (because no one would go with me, and I hadn’t learned the art of a solo movie outing yet) and had to watch it while half-asleep on a neighbour’s couch while babysitting, I got the point: Anjelica Huston makes everything better, Drew Barrymore is queen, and I would 100% look foolish wearing wings to any event.

Here’s what else I learned.

1. I (and maybe you) would fare badly as Danielle (aka Cinderella)

And I don’t say this as someone with no patience and/or inability to keep my house clean (my house is tidy and/or sanitary  “clean” involves a little more time), but as someone who would just hate this. Are you an outspoken young woman who has been told many-a-time to stop talking so much in class? Have you ever heard, “Don’t give me that look”? What about, “Keep your voice down”? If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, congratulations! You are me. And that means that if a stepmother thought about sassing us, it’d be only a matter of time before she started doing what my grade 12 law teacher started doing: asking me to leave and promising not to mark me absent because he just couldn’t handle me being such a pain in class.

And I know life was different in the Middle Ages and that this woman ran Danielle’s life, BUT STILL. Everyone said I should be afraid of our VP too but she and I had our own nod in the hallways.

2. But that being said: none of us would have survived this era, so Danielle is a straight-up boss

I watched a documentary the other day about England/Europe in the Middle Ages (16th century is Middle Ages, right? If not, replace “Middle Ages” with the proper word, you heroes), and it was terrible. (Not the documentary, the reality in which people lived.) There was a lot of poop. There was no dentistry. There was a freakish obsession with leaches. People just . . . died. Horrible. HORRIBLE. And while we can watch Ever After and sing the praises of the costume and hair/makeup departments, I think it’s important that we acknowledge that IRL, these people — regardless of social standing — would have no teeth. Also: baths were not a regular occurrence. It would’ve been bleak.

Thus, Danielle — a kid who grew up with everything, then had nothing and would’ve been subjected to #leach #lyfe — was a true survivor. First, she’s the victim of emotional and physical abuse. Then, she has to deal with those things as a straight-up serf. Me? I’d have walked into the woods and turned into Paul Bettany’s character in First Knight. You? Probably something better. But still: Danielle? She’s tough as nails, let us pray.

3. Fake names never work out

I mean, they do if you are in Witness Protection. But Danielle gives Henry her mother’s name, and he buys it, and he thinks she’s a rich person, and oh boy: recipe for disaster. If only Danielle had watched Mad Men or the aforementioned First Knight or anything in which the character is posing as another person in order to hide who they were. Do I believe in white lies? Absolutely. But as soon as you go into “I am actually my deceased mother” turf, you’re . . . well, you’re in the middle of a blockbuster romantic comedy. Which explains why this works out for Danielle instead of Henry appearing on an episode of Catfish.

4. Ever After and stories like it are the reason weddings make me (us?) anxious

Hey, if you’re marrying someone you’re totally into, congratulations! I will not have anxiety about it. In fact, I only ever have anxiety over weddings in movies because 99% of the time, if they take place in the middle to near-end of the film, they’re shrouded in deceit and always involve a Graduation-like scream-session where somebody runs in AT THE LAST MINUTE, saving us all. In this case, Henry almost marries The Other Woman after DENYING Danielle, even after Da Vinci’s like “Yo, dude . . . relax — she just had to protect herself, you know? You ever watch Orphan Black?”

Evidently, Henry did not. But just before the wedding’s about to go down, Henry notices Gabrielle’s in love with someone else and “lets her go.” (UGH. MEN, sometimes, you know?) And it all ends up working out. But still. Still! Weddings. Movies. “Arrangements.” Terrifying. Also, terrible. Seriously, it’s because of situations like these where I want to remove myself from a theatre and curl up in the parking lot whenever a “but he/she’s getting married!” plot development arises. While You Were Sleeping included.

5. “Just breathe” is the greatest movie advice ever given

Why do we not talk about this every day? Remember when Danielle aka Drew-Hero-For-Life-Barrymore shows up, clad in wings made by a FAMOUS INVENTOR/ARTIST and looks at the crowd and says, “Just breathe” (and then that very new-agey song plays that I listened to on repeat because it was the nineties and that’s the whole point)? Remember how serene she looks? Remember how, before Anjelica Huston ruins it for her, she OWNS IT? And Henry’s like, “DAMN.” And the squad is like, “Who even is that?” And the answer is: DANIELLE, THANKS. Remember?

I do, now, writing about it. But the truth of the matter is, I forgot. “Breathe,” frankly, is the best coping advice and one of the best movie quotes ever. It’s so good that our friends and family and therapists say it to us when we’re having a freak out. And now here’s Drew Barrymore, wearing wings, saying it to HERSELF (because she only has herself) and, despite the showdown at the ball, she kills it.

Breathe, you guys. The best advice. From Drew to us. I’m not even sure any other quote comes close.

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