(Canada, 101 min.)
Dir. Sean Garrity, Writ. Kate Melville, Jason Sherman
Starring: Portia Doubleday, Marc-André Grondin, Chris Noth, Lauren Holly, Anna Hopkins, Natalie Krill, Mimi Kucyk, Carlo Rota, Colin Mochrie
My Awkward Sexual Adventure) with a script from Kate Melville (Picture Day) and Jason Sherman (The Best Laid Plans) alters the Cinderella story anew (ish) with a few sprinkles of magic dust as it sets the tale in the world of Montreal fashion. “Fairy tales never go out of fashion,” After the Ball advertises and it’s true. The sweet escape of happily-ever-after is a shoe that always fit whenever one is in the mood for harmless magic.
The dowdy Ella/Andy of the tale is Kate (Portia Doubleday), a frumpy fashionista with dreams of becoming a designer. She takes a job at the functional-yet-chic clothing line run by her father (Chris Noth), but her evil stepmother Elise (Lauren Holly) locks in the closet (re: button room) with the help of her two scheming daughters Tannis (a bubbly Natalie Krill) and Simone (a pouty Anna Hopkins). Kate naturally meets Prince Charming when bashful/dashing cobbler Daniel (a well-cast Marc-André Grondin) finds her awkward mess the right fit.
After the Ball then takes a Twelfth Night twist when Elise and her daughters oust Kate from the company, but Kate returns in drag as Nate, a smart and successful designer they’re willing to take more seriously. The Shakespeare stuff is clever and humorous as Doubleday has fun playing Nate like a flamboyant drag queen. Naturally, Kate-Nate juggles family loyalty (her dad sees Nate as the embodiment of values that have been slipping away from his business) while Daniel finds Nate to be a confidant for his feelings for Kate.
A few too many comedy lab calculations stress the formulas at play. After the Ball is a little too “film A meets film B meets film C + gay sidekick + recognizable Hollywood star in supporting role + Franglais,” but fashion itself is about recycling as much as it is about reinvention.
Fun performances from the spirited cast, especially Doubleday and Grondin, make After the Ball a charming winner. Over-the-top supporting turns by Mimi Kucyk and Carlo Rota as Kate’s fairy godmothers are amusing, as is Colin Mochrie’s sneering rival for the family empire. This glossy production (a Don Carmody work) has the slickness of a Hollywood studio lark, and offers light, bubbly, and fun. After the Ball is stylish entertainment and a little bibbidi bobbidi boo escapism.
Rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★★)
After the Ball is now available on home video.