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Film / A Cinderella Story

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A Cinderella Story is a 2004 retelling of "Cinderella" starring Hilary Duff.

Sam Montgomery is the downtrodden "Diner Girl", a teen girl who's been forced to be a waitress at her cruel stepmother's diner ever since her father died. The only thing she has is the hope of getting out of the house and going to Princeton. Another person is planning on going to Princeton, a young man that she met at a chatroom who goes to the same school as her. She's fallen in love with him, and they plan to reveal their identities to each other at the Halloween dance. It turns out her Internet beau was the captain of the football team. How will Austin react to the girl of his dreams being a dorky waitress?

Spiritual Predecessor to Another Cinderella Story and, subsequently, A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song, A Cinderella Story: If The Shoe Fits, A Cinderella Story Christmas Wish and A Cinderella Story: Starstruck. There is also a Bollywood remake called

This film provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: Zigzagged. While the school staff are clearly horrified by the humiliation Sam receives at the pep-rally, none of them punish Shelby or the other students for their bullying. That being said, they're clearly on Sam's side when she hooks up with Austin, who left Shelby.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Sam, mostly because she doesn’t work at a cool job, even though she is a straight A student.
  • All There in the Manual: A few in the novelization.
    • Fiona is revealed to have been married five times, Brianna and Gabriella being the daughters of her second husband.
    • Austin gets up on stage during the pep-rally and tries to save face by pretending that the whole thing was a joke he was in on. This explains why the faculty never punished Shelby, the stepsisters and their friends for the skit.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Fiona and her daughters; Shelby and her two lackeys
  • Calling the Old Woman Out: At the climax, Sam finally stands up to her stepmother and goes full-blown Take This Job and Shove It, preferring to be flat broke than spend a single second more having her controlling her life... and all other employees at the diner and the clients walk out as well.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The fairytale book. When Sam's father died, she stated her stepmother inherited everything because he left no will. Then, in the end, it's revealed he did leave a will inside the book.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Astrid, the morning announcement girl with the multicolored hair. She becomes Carter's girlfriend in the end.
  • Cinderella Plot: The Cinderella is Sam Montgomery, who's stepmother forces her to do all the house chores as well as slave away at her family's diner. She falls for the Prince, who in this case is school football player Austin, and they communicate through online messages before Austin ever learns who she is. In addition to her stepfamily, she's also tormented by the school's Alpha Bitch and is working mostly to save up money and move out.
  • Cool Loser: Sam. The pep-rally scene makes it clear the entire student body (except Carter, Terry, Austin and his friend Ryan) hates her... for no reason in particular. In case you thought they were only screaming "Diner Girl" at Sam during the pep-rally because they were innocently going along with the skit, there is a follow-up scene with people pointing and laughing at Sam, while she is crying.
    • People can be heard cheering for Sam and Austin during their first kiss, so they might just be fickle.
  • Costume-Test Montage: Sam tries on a lot of costumes to find the perfect one for the Halloween dance.
  • Daddy's Girl: Sam's dad was her best friend, and she was his.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Sam's father was a virtual saint.
  • Domino Mask: Sam's costume for the dance is a pretty dress, and this. True to trope, somehow nobody can figure out who she is. (Also Carter with his Zorro costume, but at least that's more elaborate.)
  • Double Standard: Sam rejecting/being embarrassed by Terry because he is a "loser" during the dance is played for laughs. Austin rejecting Sam for being a "loser" is played out as cruel and wrong, though it is not like Shelby publicly mocking Sam made it any harder to be cruel. To be fair, Shelby mistreating Carter is also treated as cruel. In fact, Sam was being worse than Shelby in that instant. Shelby barely knew Carter; Terry was already friends with Sam, and she knew that he liked her for who she was.
  • Dumb Blonde: Fiona, who imports her salmon from "Norwegia".
  • Dramatic Drop: The snow globe on Sam's nightstand during the earthquake.
  • Foil: Shelby to Austin. They have similar conflicts, but Shelby embraces her 'other life' and Austin rejects it.
  • Girl Posse: Shelby has one. Her main two lackeys, Madison and Caitlin, as well the rest of the cheerleading squad.
  • Good Parent: Hal, who spends quality time with his daughter and encourages to chase her dreams by being the best she can be.
  • Hate Sink: We can’t really hate Fiona and the stepsisters due to their comedic quirks, but we can hate Shelby and her Girl Posse. They are obviously intended to be as despicable as possible, as they constantly bully poor Sam for being a "Diner Girl" and publicly humiliate Sam at the local pep-rally.
  • Hollywood Law: It's impossible for Fiona to have "gotten everything" when Sam's father died without a will; under California intestate succession law, Sam would have been entitled to half of everything her father owned before he married Fiona. While this might not have prevented her from being financially exploited by her stepmother, it would have been much harder for Fiona to do so e.g. Rhonda or the authorities probably would have kept a close eye on Sam's finances to make sure they weren't being illegally accessed before she reached maturity; and Fiona would have no excuse for forcing Sam to work in the diner under the pretence of saving up money for college, as well as taking Sam's earnings for herself, if there was already money waiting for her in an inheritance account or trust fund.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Austin can't recognize Sam's voice when they're at the diner. Despite the fact they had a lengthy conversation at the dance. Not to mention she has long blonde hair, and he could've eliminated anyone without that hair color.
    • Sam had to suffer a heap of misery and abuse from her step-family because her father left his will that meant she would inherit everything inside one of her favourite books, instead of leaving it securely with his executor (or even Rhonda, who clearly would have Sam's best interests at heart) and since he only gave her a vague hint that what's inside the book could help her in the future, Sam never looked inside that book in eight years. Even if Sam had found the will almost immediately after he died, did her father really expect that an eight year old would know what to do with it?
  • Ivy League for Everyone: The fact Sam and her "prince" are both planning to go to Princeton is an important part of the plot. Neither of them have safety schools apparently .
  • Jerkass: Fiona, the stepsisters, Shelby and her squad... including Austin's pervert friend David.
  • Joisey: Inverted. Sam's happy ending is escaping Los Angeles to Princeton.
  • Karma Houdini: Averted with Fiona and the stepsisters, but not for Shelby and her lackeys, who are never punished for the pep-rally, despite the fact that it's performed in front of the faculty. While she receives some Laser-Guided Karma in the end, it has nothing to do with the rally whatsoever. It can be assumed that they received punishment later on.
    • In the novelization, however, Shelby does get her comeuppance during the big football game at the end when she gets knocked into the mud by some of the players by accident.
    • Also, Austin's friend David tries to force himself onto Shelby at the Halloween party despite her vocal protests. He gets pushed into some pumpkins... and that's it. No one ever mentions this again and no one treats him any differently despite him trying to sexually assault someone.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Fiona and her daughters are put to work in the diner to pay back the money they stole from Sam. Special note is that Fiona knew the will existed, but lied that her signature was on it when faced with the proof, while Sam's stepsisters basically ruined her life just to be petty. It's safe to say they are stuck there for the rest of their lives.
    • A bit more subtle example; After publicly humiliating Sam, Shelby later gets rejected by two different boys in front of large crowds of people. The fact that she is trying to mooch off of Carter implies that she and her friends lost their social standing.
  • Let's Just Be Friends. Defied. When Shelby breaks up with Austin, he tries to use this line, but is cut off by Shelby, who says he was just having a mental lapse. She stops this trope from happening.
  • Like Brother and Sister: There's not even a hint or romance between Carter and Sam; nobody even mistakes them for a couple when they come to/leave the dance together, both in face-concealing disguises.
  • Lost Will and Testament: Sam's stepmother had initially gotten everything that belonged to Sam's father because he didn't make a will stating otherwise but it was eventually revealed he did leave a will and Fiona knew about it. To avoid prison time for this, she agreed to perform "community services" at the diner.
  • Male Gaze: Parodied. When Sam dons a hula girl outfit, Carter puts on gag glasses, which has eyeballs that pop out.
  • Mama Bear: Rhonda to Sam. Sam's the only reason Rhonda stayed at the diner all those years. When Sam quits the diner, Rhonda declares that Sam is staying with her, and she quits as well.
  • Nemesis as Customer: While Sam is working at the diner a few hours before the dance starts, she's forced to wait on a table of students from her school, which includes the local Alpha Bitch who proceeds to make fun of her (with everyone but Austin joining in). To make matters worse, they then ditch almost immediately, but Austin hangs back to pay Sam.
  • Once Upon a Time: Once upon a time, this 00's teen flick began thusly.
  • Pair the Spares: Carter winds up with Astrid, the snarky announcer, at the very end of the movie. Prior to this the two never interacted.
  • Parental Abandonment: First, it's Missing Mom, but then her dad dies too.
  • Parental Substitute: Not Fiona, the Wicked Stepmother, but Rhonda the kindly chief waitress and Expy of the fairy godmother. Sam stated in the prelude that she didn't need a second mother, and indeed she had already one in Rhonda. Rhonda also took her in her house when she left Fiona.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Fiona wears pink almost exclusively and Hal's diner gets a pink-makeover when she takes over the establishment.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Neither Sam or Carter harbor any feelings towards each other. They are supportive of each other's respective love life's. Their friendship is strictly platonic.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Sam to her dad, Hal, during the earthquake. She screams, "Don't go!"
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: When suburban, white boy Carter tries to dress "hip-hop."
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Sam is portrayed as justified in thinking her friend, Terry, is not good enough for her because he is a nerd. Shelby doing the same to Carter, and Austin doing the same to Sam herself are both portrayed as being snobby and unfair. You honestly think "Diner Girl" wouldn't have such high standards.
  • Raised by Dudes: Sam, due to her raised by her single dad. She loves and is good at sports, but is behind in makeup and fashion.
  • Redemption in the Rain: Austin gives up his football scholarship and possibly his social standing to run after Sam (which also represents him taking back control of his life from his dad). It starts raining after Sam forgives him, and they begin to kiss.
  • Shamed by a Mob: Fiona is in Stunned Silence when the entire diner walks out on her after Sam hits a Rage-Breaking Point and refuses to live with Fiona's rules anymore. She tries to threaten Rhonda with termination if the later takes in Sam, but Rhonda says she never needed the job and only stayed for Sam's sake. Cue the rest of the staff also walking out because they were on Sam's side, and some customers. One honorably asks Fiona to send him the bill for his meal before leaving.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Sam looks amazing in her ball gown.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Not intentionally though. For the first part of the movie neither knew the other outside of their screen names.
  • Something They Would Never Say: Sam realizes that Terry is lying about being Nomad, because her and Nomad's conversations never included sci-fi roleplay.
    Terry: I have travelled across time and space to find you...
  • Sports Dad: Austin's father actively tries to dissuade him from going to any college other than the one he wants his son to go to. He has an entire plan laid out, starting with Austin playing football at a local college; unfortunately for Austin, he's a poetry lover who wants to go to Princeton.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Sam believes that her Love Interest would if he knew her true identity, bully her like everyone else. Unusually for films of this demographic, she's right.
    • Lying about signing a will as well as forcing a minor to work so many hours is illegal and causes Fiona and her daughters to be arrested and have to work off their debts. It helps that Sam found the will, learning that her dad left his house, diner and assets to his daughter. Consulting a lawyer helped her realize in turn that Fiona broke the law.
  • Take My Hand!: Inverted. Hal and Sam are holding hands during the earthquake, but Hal then lets Sam's go (zoomed-in cam and slo-mo) so that he can go save Fiona.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Used on full effect during the pep-rally scene.
  • Tempting Fate: Hal says, "I'll be right back" to Sam during an earthquake. Guess who dies.
  • Tomboyish Baseball Cap: Her father gave her his blue cap when she was a kid. She wears periodically through the film.
  • Tomboyish Name: Sam.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Sam is a tomboy but she does have a thing for fairy tales and doesn't balk at dressing up even if she usually doesn't do it.
  • True Blue Femininity: All of Sam's everyday outfits are blue-themed. Subverted with her dress and mask during the dance.
  • True Love's Kiss: As soon as the Sam and Austin share their first kiss, the drought the town has experiencing for years suddenly ends with a drop that falls right onto Austin, as if the kiss broke the curse.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Sam does care about her physical appearance, but she's still prettier than her step-sisters (at least in-universe).
  • Vetinari Job Security: Fiona can't fire Rhonda because her knowledge of the customers is the only thing keeping them coming back to the diner. Sure enough, when Rhonda does quit in support of Sam, they're not the only two who walk out of the diner. Every customer follows, showing clear disappointment in Fiona.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sam chews out Austin for not coming to her defense when she gets publicly humiliated.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: ...Sam has to be back at the diner.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Austin's dad wants him to go a different college on a football scholarship, then inherit his successful carwash business, and Austin can't work up the nerve to admit that his true dream is to be a writer. After finally getting together with Sam, Austin sets his dad straight and tells him he plans on going to Princeton. This turns into a subversion as Austin's dad decides to support his decision.
  • World of Jerkass: Nearly everyone treats poor Sam Montgomery like dirt, including her stepmother and stepsisters, her classmates (aside from Carter and Terry), and even her Love Interest, who scornfully rejects her because she is an indentured waitress. One of the few exceptions to this trope is Rhonda, who even lets Sam move in with her at the end of the film.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: There's so much to make you feel dead inside at the end, but especially the pep-rally scene.

This Bollywood remake provides specific examples of:

  • Cultural Translation: Among other things, Cyrus (Austin) is a swimmer instead of a footballer. Sonia (Shelby) is a dancer instead of a cheerleader. The action takes place at a college instead of a high school. April (Sam) tries to win a scholarship (so she can afford to leave home), which replaces the original Princeton subplot. Instead of a pep rally, Sonia merely stages a party at the restaurant April works where she exposes April as Cinderella.
    • There is also a subplot of April being looked down upon for having dark skin.
    • Bizarrely, many references to American media is replaced... with different American media. Raj (Carter) goes as The Mask instead of Zorro.
  • Decomposite Character: An unnamed boy and girl take Astrid's role in the story. The girl isn't Raj's love interest, suggesting they might be a couple.
  • Gratuitous English: Almost half of the dialogue is in English, especially lines from the original movie.
  • Karma Houdini: April (Sam's counterpart) never reclaims the restaurant from her stepmother (though we can assume that she legally inherited it) or learns that she lied about the scholarship.
    • Similarly, the popular kids never get punished for their behavior, though it is implied that Sonia repents for her actions.
  • No Name Given: Sonia's friends (Madison and Caitlin's counterparts) and the two D Js kids (Astrid) even go unnamed in the credits.
  • Playing Cyrano: One of April's stepsisters forces to create an email identity (Cinderella) that she was supposed to make for a writing project, and this is how she meets Cyrus.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Mona lies to April about winning the scholarship, knowing that she would use the money to leave home. This is never resolved.
    • Unlike Shelby in the first movie, Sonia seems to repent her cruelty, and wishes Cyrus well when he goes after April. Whether or not she patches things up with Raj is never resolved, especially since Astrid's counterpart already has a boyfriend. Though this could have been a last second chance to look nice to get Cyrus back.