a cinderella story

I Rewatched ‘A Cinderella Story’ As An Adult & I Got Very Angry

There’s one movie and one character to blame for the unrealistic expectations I had about romance growing up and that’s A Cinderella Story’s Austin Ames.

The film itself has become a cult classic over the years, not only because it features arguably two of the ’00s biggest stars — Hilary Duff (as Sam aka Cinderella) and Chad Michael Murray (as Austin aka Prince Charming) — but because the plot just…doesn’t make a lot of sense. Like the fact that Austin can’t recognise Sam while she’s wearing a truly tiny mask.

The actor himself even admitted that, upon reflection, this made zero sense, joking, “If you go to masquerade ball and a girl you see almost every day is wearing a small mask and her entire face is exposed and you still can’t recognise her, you should probably see an eye doctor… among a few other doctors.” True that.

He looks a little different these days, but if you grew up in the early ’00s you’ll be very familiar with Murray, as the decade’s collective crush. Murray was in a string of teen movies and TV shows like One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls, and Freaky Friday, where he essentially played the same character every time. He’s hot, but he’s misunderstood. He gets loads of attention from girls, but he would prefer staying in and reading a book. He’s the softboi to end all softbois.

But Murray was at his dreamiest in A Cinderella Story, when he was paired up with everyone’s favourite teen star, Duff. While I watched this movie in my younger years, I haven’t seen it since so I decided I was overdue for a rewatch.

Tbh, I’ve never been more confused or angry.

I Rewatched ‘A Cinderella Story’ As An Adult & I Got Very Angry:

OK, let’s do this. We meet Duff’s character Sam when she’s a child, she’s happy and has a father who takes her driving in cool cars and to play baseball. He owns a burger joint, Hal’s Diner, and Sam calls him her best friend. But the dynamics change when her dad marries single mum Fiona, who has two daughters Brianna and Gabriella.

Anyways, there’s an earthquake and for some reason her dad dies?? Only her dad? No one else? Nothing is explained. Once the dad is dead, it was assumed that Fiona inherited everything and Sam is moved out of her bedroom and into the attic. We flash forward to today and as the Cinderella tale goes, Sam is treated like the family’s slave while the step-sisters are Fiona’s pampered and prized children.

Oh yeah, most importantly, Jennifer Coolidge plays Fiona: a diva who eats nothing but salmon and she’s iconic. Also, Regina King plays diner manager Rhonda, who practically raised Sam after her father passed.

Sam gets ready for school and her bestie Carter arrives to drive her. He’s an aspiring actor and dresses as a range of different characters throughout the movie, while lusting after popular girl, Shelby (centre), who is dressed so ’00s it hurts.

a cinderella story

Her baby pink sweater vest just told you that you’re ugly in five different languages.

We get our first glance at Austin, he’s dating Shelby and his friends refer to Sam as ‘Diner Girl’ which is extremely clever. You see she is a girl, and she works at a diner. I love kids’ nicknames, when I was in primary school the popular boys would affectionately call me ‘Surfboard’ because I had no boobs, which is pretty much the same story. So funny! Here for the banter! My self-esteem has never been higher!

Sam is texting on her flip-phone (’00s remember!) and we find out that for the last month she’s been talking to a mystery boy (Austin) who goes to her school but they’ve never met. They message about feeling like they don’t belong, and he sends her poetry. I know what you’re thinking…dump him! But she’s into it and they agree to meet at the Halloween dance.

Sidenote: I relate most with Carter in this movie. He is me.


Not a soul:

Me when I spot an unavailable man with arm tattoos:

a cinderella story

We are reminded that we’re watching a teen movie when we learn that Austin’s dad is super controlling over his son’s future. He’s lined up a football scholarship at USC, before his son has to manage the family’s car cleaning business. Austin wants to go to Princeton, but doesn’t have the heart to tell his father. To be fair, I don’t know how a man who runs a car cleaning business could afford to send his son to Princeton, but that’s neither here nor there.

Austin wants to write poems, not clean cars! Let him speak his truth!

Fiona tells Sam that she can’t go to the Halloween dance, as she needs her to work the night shift at the diner. She delivers the news in the most savage way ever, and Duff’s acting range is on full display.

a cinderella story

I showed more emotion when my sister told me she accidentally recorded Law and Order over my copy of The Mighty Ducks. (I’m still holding a grudge.)

Back at the diner, Sam has to serve Austin, Shelby, and the popular group. Shelby is awful to Sam, making Austin snap and say they need to talk. “Anything you need to say to me, you can say in front of my peeps,” she responds. Lol. He dumps her. She ignores this, tells him to “just chill out!” and says they will meet up later, which is a breakup response I will also adopt from now on.

Carter arrives to pick Sam up, and while she initially resists, the diner staff convince Sam to go to the dance. Rhonda takes her to a costume shop and we have a dress-up montage, before they eventually settle on just a simple mask. Rhonda already had a dress for Sam to wear, making this whole process a waste of time.

At the dance, Sam sets an alarm on her phone to go back to the diner by midnight. As Sam saunters down the stairs with her mask on, Shelby says “love her dress, hate her,” and this is important as it alludes to Sam still being recognisable.

Sam waits in the middle of the dance floor and as Austin (who is dressed as Prince Charming) introduces himself, she is disappointed. “I know exactly who you are,” she tells him. In contrast, he does not have a clue who she is.

They go for a walk and dance to Edwin’s McCain’s ‘I’ll Be’, an absolute ’00s teen anthem which I will forever associate with falling in love with our nation’s own Prince Charming aka Dean Geyer from Australian Idol. Austin is still confused over whether he’s ever seen Sam before, despite the fact he was being served by her at the diner mere hours ago.

You may argue: he didn’t actually look at her during his visit, he was too busy breaking up with his girlfriend. But nope, he did!!! I rewatched this scene literally 10 times and Austin definitely looks directly at Sam.

Here is my evidence:

a cinderella story

Yet, when she’s facing him again only a few hours later, he’s struck with amnesia or loses his sight, IDK…

a cinderella story


Just as Austin is about to unmask Sam, her phone buzzes and she has to leave. As she runs off, she drops her phone (glass slippers are so yesterday!) and Austin picks it up. In the meantime, Carter saves Shelby from being sexually harassed by a classmate, and as a thank you, she makes out with his face.

These good vibes are short-lived. Back at school, Shelby rejects Carter, telling him “we are from completely different classes of human” and it’s savage. Austin’s friends arrange for a lineup of women to come and present themselves to him, so he can work out the identity of his Cinderella. And ummmm, this is cooked.

Thankfully, a teacher breaks it up. Back at home, Fiona opens Sam’s mail to find out she got into Princeton. “Accepted? Oh, this won’t do,” Fiona seethes, and she later forges a rejection letter to give Sam in its place. Meanwhile, the step-sisters discover Sam is Cinderella after snooping on Austin’s messages on her computer.

Me messaging my UberEats delivery driver after he leaves:

a cinderella story

Armed with the knowledge of Sam being Cinderella, the step-sisters each try to convince Austin that it’s them who he met at the Halloween dance. And may I just say that Brianna and Gabriella are supposed to be awful, but they’re actually the best part of the whole movie.

a cinderella story


Austin visits the diner and starts speaking to Sam. He still doesn’t click that the girl who looks and sounds like Cinderella is probably Cinderella. He waffles on about his hard life of getting into Princeton but feeling pressured to wash cars instead. We’ve all been there, ammirite!


This movie makes me furious!!!!

The step-sisters tell Shelby that Sam is Cinderella. Then in a bizarre turn of events, as part of the football team’s pep rally, Shelby gets the step-sisters to act out some bizarre sketch mocking Austin and Sam, then outing her as ‘Diner Girl’. Austin looks disappointed as the whole school chants, “Diner Girl!” at Sam. I’ve heard this story before…

She was a diner girl, he said ‘see you later girl’, she wasn’t good enough for him. 

a cinderella story

I’ll, I’ll show myself out… But seriously, why would anyone at school care about this? The whole class seems obsessed with shaming this poor girl for working at a diner. She probably gets hot chips for free, this girl is living!

Back at home, Sam is given Fiona’s forged letter revealing that she’s been rejected from Princeton. Sam cries. Fiona eats cookies gleefully. In the coming days, Sam wears a cap around school, I guess so people can’t recognise her? This hat doesn’t even cover her face?? I don’t even know what’s happening at this point! Who am I? What’s it all about? Should I start a new life? I need a new identity! Where can I buy a bedazzled mask?!

Back at the diner, Sam is losing faith when some wallpaper peels off the wall and she sees her dad’s words, “never let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game,” come through. This inspires Sam to quit and tell Fiona that she’s moving out. Rhonda offers to let Sam move in, then she quits too and the rest of the staff follow suit. Fiona and the step-sisters are not OK.

Me and my BFF going through the drunken DMs we sent the night before:

a cinderella story

Sam then storms into the locker room before the school’s football final to tell Austin that he’s a coward, telling him, “waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought, useless and disappointing.” Sorry boy, but you missed out! Well, tough luck that girl’s gone now! She’s left you to see her friend! But this ain’t how the story ends! (If you haven’t noticed, I’ve lost my goddamn mind.)

In the middle of the game as Sam’s words finally hit him, Austin stops playing and runs towards the crowd where Sam and Carter are sitting. And just like what happens in about 100 other teen movies, Austin’s dad says “You’re throwing away your dream,” to which Austin replies, “No, I’m throwing away yours.”

Austin finds Sam in the crowd and they kiss. It starts raining, but they continue to kiss?! When obviously the only reasonable reaction to unexpected rain (while wearing a cute outfit) is this:

a cinderella story

Sam finds out that Fiona had deceived her all these years, and her father left his house and diner to his daughter in his will. Sam also found out that she actually got into Princeton. The Diner is restored to its former glory, and Fiona escapes jail time by doing her community service scrubbing the restaurant’s floors, alongside her daughters.

The film ends with Sam and Austin getting set to attend Princeton and driving off to start their new life together. I’m sure their love was long-lasting, until they arrived in 2020 and Sam started wearing a mask due to coronavirus and sadly, Austin no longer recognised her. 🙂

a cinderella story

A Cinderella Story is available to rent or buy on Amazon.