A Cinderella Story (2004)

A Cinderella Story
Director: Mark Rosman
Writer: Leigh Dunlap
Cast: Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, Chad Michael Murray, Dan Byrd, Regina King, Julie Gonzalo, Lin Shaye, Madeline Zima, Andrea Avery Ray, Mary Pat Gleason, Paul Rodriguez
Seen on: 4.1.2020

Plot:
Sam (Hilary Duff) divides her time between school and the diner that her stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge) inherited from her father. Her stepmother is rarely there herself, which is just as well, as all she sees in Sam is cheap labor. Fortunately, there’s Sam’s best friend Carter (Dan Byrd) and Nomad, a guy she met online and with whom she has kept up a regular correspondence. He goes to her school as well – and he really wants to meet her. So she suggests that they meet at the school’s Halloween dance. There she learns that Nomad is Austin (Chad Michael Murray), the school’s most popular guy. He, on the other hand, doesn’t learn who Sam is – but she loses her phone and he finds it and tries to find her through it.

Look, a fairy tale retold as a teenage RomCom will very rarely win points for originality, and if a plot that surprises you is what you’re looking for, you should skip this A Cinderella Story widely. But I thought it was a pretty sweet take on a familiar story with some nice touches in the way it modernized the story.

The film poster showing Sam (Hilary Duff) riding piggyback on Austin (Chad Michael Murray).

Much like What a Girl Wants, A Cinderella Story feels like I should have seen it already, but I definitely haven’t watched it before now. Anyway, even as it checks all tropes in the genre, it’s definitely cute and fun.

Although I will freely admit that I may have just been taken in by the utterly charming presence of Hilary Duff. I never actually saw anything she was in before and, dammit, I was not prepared. She is so cute and pretty and everything, phew. Chad Michael Murray is cute, too, but Austin is less of a character and more of a wish fulfilment fantasy and not necessarily one that spoke to me in particular.

Austin (Chad Michael Murray) orders from Sam (Hilary Duff) at a diner.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag of beans, mostly due to the script that just doesn’t give them any room to maneuver. The stepmother and stepsisters are caricatures and are a bit much, but I did appreciate that Sam’s best friend is neither gay nor in love with her – which is what we usually get when girls are shown to have male best friends in such films.

If you like fairy tales and don’t have trouble suspending your disbelief, and especially if you find Hilary Duff as enchanting as she proved to me, A Cinderella Story is probably a must see. If any one of these three requirements doesn’t apply to you, I’d be more careful with a recommendation. But it probably doesn’t hurt to give it a try.

Sam (Hilary Duff) and Austin (Chad Michael Murray) dancing with each other.

Summarizing: Sweet.

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