While a lot of my book recommendations come from The Enchanted Inkpot on livejournal I think this is the first time I've gotten a movie recommendation from them. I forgot how it came up but the movie was mentioned as an example for something (I think it was because the end of the movie subverts a normal movie trope) and, after looking up more information about the movie on tvtropes , I decided that this sounded exactly like the kind of movie I wanted to see (it's one of the few fairy tale retellings than I can think of that has absolutely no magic involved) and was happy to see my local library had it. Had a bit of trouble getting the movie to play (the disc was unmarked so I stuck it in upside down at first and had some trouble getting my computer to spit the disc back out) and watched it all in one go even though it was getting late.
Summary: Once upon a time, there was a girl named Danielle whose father loved her very much and would often read to her about philosophy and he hoped she would get along with his new wife and children. But soon after her father remarries he dies and her new stepmother has Danielle work as a servant. This doesn't break her spirit but ten years along Danielle doesn't have a very bright or interesting future ahead of her, that is until she runs into a prince...
The Good: Danielle is a strong and interesting heroine and completely beats the damsel in distress trope into the ground. From one of the first scenes where she charges after a horse thief, hurtling apples at them (with a pretty good throwing arm!) to later on when she challenges the prince's political philosophies she proves that she's a real character, not just a collection of tropes, and her confidence and intelligence make her one of the most interesting (and sympathetic) protagonists I've seen in awhile*. If this story had been told from the prince's point of view she may have come off as a maniac pixie dream girl to the prince (since she's the one that instigates his character growth, she's also certainly more interesting than the prince) but since this is her story Danielle was given the extra time needed to show her as a real character. Also, Leonardo da Vinci (who is a supporting character) gets some really funny lines in this movie, who would have imagined that he could be comedic relief!
The Bad: Despite how interesting Danielle is, the prince isn't nearly as interesting and in the end almost all the side characters feel like they didn't have enough screen time (with the exception of the ste-mother and -sisters). One character that does get enough time is the younger step-sister but she feels a bit odd since she's a bit of a mismash of tropes. In almost every Cinderella story, the other step-sister is a complete bitch and the younger step-sister (there are always two) is either nicer, usually having a heel face turn halfway through the story, or just a complete airhead. This sister does both and it seemed to be a bit of an odd choice, as if the writer changed their minds halfway through. The ending isn't a particularly climatic or dramatic one (which I think is what The Enchanted Inkpot had been complaining about in the first place) which isn't bad per-say but might disappoint a lot of people watching the movie.
The Audio: Since this was a live-action movie I payed less attention to the audio than I normally would (that is, I usually pay closer attention when it's just voice acting, not regular acting) so I don't have much to say about the music. I thought that the music played during the credits was a bit odd (I thought it was a song with vocals but I don't have the DVD with me anymore to double check) but everything else worked fine.
The Visuals: I'm not familiar enough with Renaissance clothing to tell if the costumes are completely period accurate (the movie would have taken place around the year 1500) but the outfits looked as if some research had gone into them and they were quite lovely. All of the dresses, except for what the servants wore, were very nice looking, the step-mother had a few interesting looking headdresses and all the men had cool looking hats so it's safe to say that costume buffs would like the outfits here. I'm also not sure how accurate the landscape was (the movie is set in France) but again, it felt as if some research had been done and that the set designers weren't relying on old cliches such as "everyone lives in a castle" for ideas. The various buildings and bits of forest used for the movie certainly looked as nice as the outfits did so, accurate or not, the movie was pretty to look at.
In short, I love Daniella as a protagonist and really wish that I see more characters like her in any medium. Maybe I should go and pull that old book of fairy tales from my room for a re-read, might have to fix the binding again first though....
*actually, she reminds me a lot of the heroes and heroines from the fairy tales I read as a kid (yes, at least half of the stories I read had female or animal protagonists rather than the standard male hero and almost all the rest had a vital female character in them, clearly I read the awesome fairy tales as a kid) and one reason I admired those characters so much was because not only were they physically strong but they were also very clever and most characters these days just don't seem as creative or genius in comparison.