Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Based on the (somewhat darker) novel by Gregory Maguire, the made-for-TV movie Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister offers a refreshing revisionist spin on the old Cinderella legend. Having squandered her late husband's fortune, 17th century widow Margarethe (Stockard Channing) moves from London to her native Holland, in hopes of snagging wealthy tulip merchant Van Den Meer (David Westhead) as Hubby Number Two. Going along for the ride are Margarethe's two daughters, Iris (Azura Skye) and Ruth (Emma Poole), whom their mother regards as hopelessly homely and awkward -- especially when compared to Van Den Meer's gorgeous, aloof, and chronically agoraphobic daughter Clara (Claire Harrison). Though unattractive by her mother's idiotically exacting standards, Iris glows with beauty from within, especially when her artistic soul is unleashed by a wise old mentor known as the Master (Jonathan Pryce) (who, without giving too much of the game away, bears a remarkable resemblance to the great Rembrandt). When Margarethe selfishly attempts to marry off Iris to a handsome Prince, ignoring the girl's growing fondness for the Master's humble apprentice Casper (Matthew Goode), Iris formulates a plan to draw Clara out of her shell and prepare her unofficial stepsister for a royal marriage. Deftly challenging still-prevalent notions of "ugly," "beautiful," "good," and "evil," Confessions of an Ugly Sister was a Canadian-Luxembourg coproduction, filmed in 2001 and first telecast as part of ABC's Wonderful World of Disney anthology on March 10, 2002.