April 8, 2020

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This glass slipper is so last year

Fashion-focused fantasy film tweaks fairy tale, but it's a drag

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/2/2015 (1867 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST PICTURES
It�s not midnight yet, is it?: Marc-Andr�� Grondin and Portia Doubleday in After the Ball.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST PICTURES It�s not midnight yet, is it?: Marc-Andr�� Grondin and Portia Doubleday in After the Ball.

Note that After the Ball arrives in cinemas immediately after the December release Into the Woods and just before the impending March release of Disney's live-action Cinderella.

Factoring in Into the Woods' worldly, revisionist take on the fairy tale of a girl fighting for her right to party, that's three Cinderella movies in four months.

That should raise a question about an uneasy zeitgeist that requires so many Cinderella stories.

But you aren't likely to find any answers here. As written by screenwriters Jason Sherman and Kate Melville, After the Ball is a fairly simple, real-world variant of the tale, substituting fashion for fantasy.

Kate Kassell (Portia Doubleday) is a would-be couture designer who exits fashion school with an impressive portfolio and nowhere to go, since her distant dad, Lee Kassell (Chris Noth), has a reputation for stealing other people's designs for use in his own fashion house.

On the advice of her grandmotherly godmother Bella (Mimi Kuzyk), who runs a vintage clothing store in downtown Montreal, the out-of-options Kate heads to her dad's company for a job.

Effectively running interference is her stepmom (Lauren Holly), who, with her own two daughters (Anna Hopkins and Natalie Krill), make up a tacky, talentless trio who conspire to keep Kate alienated from her dad.

When Kate gets fired, Bella and her actor companion Richard (Carlo Rota) devise a new strategy. They dress Kate as a man to take Kate's place at the company. Goodbye, clumsy, passive doormat Kate. Hello, assertive, confident Nate, as in up-and-coming designer "Nate Ganymede."

There is, alas, one little problem. During her brief employment, Kate fell in love with the company's shoe designer, Daniel (Marc-André Grondin, of Goon). Now, working alongside him in male drag, it's going to be tough for her to keep her hands off him, and the gesture is liable to be misunderstood if she fails. (If that seems a stretch to credibility, bear in mind Cinderella's prince didn't recognize her by her face as much as her shoe size. And what was up with that?)

Given the story's gender games and its heroine's daddy issues, maybe this Cinderella story isn't as simple as all that. But considering Winnipeg director Sean Garrity's previous foray into female fantasy -- Blood Pressure, a more layered, and decidedly more adult examination of feminine desire -- this film is clearly intended to be consumed as a pop confection.

In that capacity, it's sufficiently pleasing. Doubleday is a game gamine, and as the wicked stepsisters Hopkins and Krill manage to steal some scenes and win some laughs.

Certainly, they help compensate for the film's witty/helpful/catty gay characters, enlisted, like the mice in Cinderella, to come to her aid in her hour of need.

There's a line between gay-positive and patronizing and this movie crosses it.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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