Synopsis: After a young fashion designer runs afoul of her corrupt stepmother and stepsisters, she dons a disguise to help save the family business for her father. (From IMDb)
Review: What if Cinderella wanted to design a slipper instead of losing one? After the Ball is a lighthearted modern twist on the classic Cinderella tale. Instead of a magical kingdom, the story takes place in the world of high fashion. This is certainly not a “thinking” movie, it is just a frothy take on an old tale. Part of the screenplay borrows heavily from Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. There is back stabbing, fake identities, and a happy ending. Every now and then it is nice to watch a fairy tale type movie that does not require a lot of thinking to enjoy the screenplay. While the screenplay is a little lacking in depth, it has enough to stay interesting.
In this take on Cinderella, Kate, the heroine, just graduated from fashion school in Montreal and cannot get a job. No one trusts the daughter of Lee Kassell, the designer whose clothes are “inspired” by the iconic fashion houses. Everyone things Kate just wants to work with them in order to spy for her father. Kate reluctantly joins the family business and has to navigate the world of high fashion while avoiding her stepmother and stepsisters. With the help of a handsome designer in the shoe department, a godmother who owns a vintage clothing department, and a switch of identities, Kate tries to expose her stepmother’s corporate espionage.
This movie was released in theaters but it has the production value of a made-for-television feature. Which is perfectly fine, it just is not as polished as it could have been. The cast and witty heroine makes up for the lack of high production gloss. Portia Doubleday plays the hapless fashion designer Kate. Though for a fashion designer wannabe she has horrible fashion sense, coveralls are not flattering on anyone. She is bubbly, talented, and frustrated by her absentee father. However, her stepmother is making her life miserable and making sure she and her father never reconnect. In a bid to expose her stepmother’s dubious actions, Kate disguises herself as Nate, a high fashion design whiz kid. With this disguise in place, Kate is able to infiltrate Kassell and reconnect with her father. Portia is a talented actress and does a good job playing the optimistic heroine. However, she is rather unconvincing as a male, albeit a highly effeminate one. Nate is a flamboyant character modeled off a Stanley Tucci impersonator. There a few funny moments where Kate forgets that she is pretending to be Nate and acts on her feelings. She also is the queen of a quick clothing changes and mastering alter-ego quirks. Nate allows her to say what she means with flare and confidence.
Marc-Andre Grondin plays the Prince Charming character, Daniel the shoe designer. He is hopelessly confused by Kate as Nate. He has a charming French-Canadian accent and an eye for detail. Also, his shoes are gorgeous. The evil stepsisters are portrayed as terrible designer wannabes who parade around in tight sequined dresses and sky high heels. Even though they are not twins, they do their best to look as identical as physically possible. Natalie Krill and Anna Hopkins do a fantastic job playing the dimwitted stepsisters. Everything is over exaggerated from the clothes to the hand gestures and sighing. Kate’s godmother owns the vintage clothing store After the Ball. She helps Kate to chase her dreams and never give up. That and her friend/business partner Richard. A flamboyant stage actor whose one goal in life is to appear in a stage production of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Richard and the godmother fulfill the fairy godmother role and do it with flare. I wish I had a Richard in my life.
Lauren Holly plays Elise, the evil stepmother. She is a rather one dimensional character and her motivation for killing her husband’s company is never explained. All she does is parade around in trashy skirt suits and be mean to everyone except her daughters. As wicked stepmothers go, she is one of the worse written versions. Chris Noth puts in a few appearances as the regret laden Lee Kassell. He seems perfectly content to let Elise run roughshod over him and run the company into the ground. When he appears he is full of gravitas and presence. But the character is also incredibly one-dimensional and is always willing to believe the worse about everyone, except for Elise.
The rest of the movie goes the predictable route. There is the fancy ball, the runaway from the Prince scene, and the happy ever after ending. And the evil stepmother gets her comeuppance in the end. Kate and Daniel become a couple and Kassell becomes a fashion powerhouse once again. While this is not a complicated movie, it is an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so. Sometimes I enjoy watching a fantasy tinged realistic movie.