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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 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 and A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits. A fifth film version, intended as a Christmas special, was released in 2019, titled A Cinderella Story Christmas Wish. There is also a Bollywood remake.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: Subvert. Sam is humiliated in front of everyone at the pep-rally... while the school staff are horrified.
  • Alpha Bitch: Shelby.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Sam.
  • And a Diet Coke: In one scene at the diner.
  • Beauty = Goodness: Played straight with Sam. Subverted with Shelby and her lackeys, who are as ugly on the inside as they are pretty on the outside.
  • Beneath the Mask: Austin lives large as the Big Man on Campus...and hates it. Deep down, he wants to escape his controlling father and become a writer. (This is why he feels his relationship with Sam is so important- she sees him for who he is.)
  • Big Brother Instinct: Carter is protective of Sam, and he looks out for her well being throughout the movie.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Between Sam and Austin, of course.
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  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Fiona, before Hal died.
  • 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 Gunman: Astrid, the morning announcement girl with the multicolored hair. She becomes Carter's girlfriend in the end.
  • 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.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Averted. Carter could have easily been set up as a love interest, but he's not.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: A Cinderella Story.
  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • 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.
  • Dance of Romance: At the Halloween dance between Austin and Sam.
    • Subverted between Sam and Terry.
  • 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: Played straight with Fiona, who imports her salmon from "Norwegia". Averted with Sam.
  • Dramatic Drop: The snow globe on Sam's nightstand during the earthquake.
  • Fallen Princess: Sam.
  • Foil: Shelby to Austin. They have similar conflicts, but Shelby embraces her 'other life' and Austin rejects it.
  • Good Parent: Hal, who spends quality time with his daughter and encourages to chase her dreams by being the best she can be.
  • Girl Posse: Shelby has one. Her main two lackeys, Madison and Caitlin, as well the rest of the cheerleading squad.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Averted. Fiona and her daughters are forced to pay back Sam all the money they stole from her, including the money Fiona took from her working as a waitress.
  • Jerkass: Fiona, the stepsisters, Shelby and her squad... including Austin's pervert friend David.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: The fact Sam and her "prince" are both planning to go to Princeton is an important part of the plot.
  • Joisey: Inverted. Sam's happy ending is escaping Los Angeles to Princeton.
  • Karma Houdini: Shelby and her lackeys 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.
    • 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. 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.
  • Mama Bear: Rhonda to Sam. Sam's the only reason Rhonda stayed at the diner all those years.
  • Male Gaze: Parodied. When Sam dons a hula girl outfit, Carter puts on gag glasses, which has eyeballs that pop out.
  • Meganekko: Probably what Hal found appealing about Fiona. (She however is not actually a meganekko.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reality Ensues: 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.
  • 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.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Rhonda.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tempting Fate: Hal says, "I'll be right back" to Sam during an earthquake. Guess who dies.
  • Tomboy: Sam, due to her raised by her single dad. She loves and is good at sports, but is behind in makeup and fashion.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Sam and the stepsisters; Sam and Shelby.
  • Tomboyish Baseball Cap: Her father gave her his blue cap when she was a kid. She wears periodically through the film.
  • 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.
  • Tomboyish Name: Sam.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The ugly stepsisters.
    • They obviously got it from Fiona. "Norwegia"?
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: We don't actually see Fiona acting like the jerk she is until after Sam's father dies.
    • There is a hint of it in the wedding scene, when Fiona excluded Sam from the wedding photo.
  • True Blue Femininity: All of Sam's everyday outfits are blue-themed.
  • The Unfavorite: Sam.
  • 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.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: There's so much to make you feel dead inside at the end, but especially the pep-rally scene.
  • 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.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Fiona.
  • Witch with a Capital B: Fiona, again.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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