A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 268 – The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride – November 23rd, 2010

Alas, tonight we are having to cheat a tiny bit, but for a thoroughly unavoidable reason. A couple of weeks back I had a nasty bug that knocked me down for a good couple of days, at least two of which were spent feverish and gross and achy. And then I recovered and Andy didn’t seem to be getting it and we thought hurrah! He’s missed it! And then no! The fever struck this weekend and it didn’t seem to be going away, so when I got home from work tonight we packed up a laptop and a notebook and headed off to the urgent care department at our local hospital to make sure nothing was lurking. Like pneumonia. The good news? No pneumonia! The bad news? Late movie and late reviews. But in the name of health, which I think is an understandable and excusable reason.

When we knew we’d likely be at the hospital for a couple of hours, making watching a movie difficult or impossible, we decided to watch something we knew by heart. Something beloved and wonderful and comforting. Something we could review before we watched it while it played in our heads. So we picked this movie. It is instantly recognizable. It is the sort of movie that people from many walks of life can quote from at length. You don’t need to be a geek to know or enjoy this movie. Hell, you don’t even need to really know the movie much to know the most common quotations and references. You can’t really escape this movie, even if you’re not particularly fond of it.

Now, I’m sure there are people who don’t like it. I don’t understand that, and I don’t agree, but I don’t know how I’d argue with it. Because really, this is quite well made. There’s excellent writing, good acting, fairly high production values. It would have to be a matter of personal taste, and I don’t argue with personal taste. After all, there are people who think Punch Drunk Love is brilliant and it pissed me off mightily, so yeah. Taste is subjective. It’s just the nature of it. So I would hope that those who don’t like it can just be secure in the knowledge that I, for one, won’t insist that they watch it one more time, just in case they magically like it this time! And in return, I would ask for no on to harsh my squee, okay? Okay.

Because seriously, I love this movie. It’s a sort of alchemical reaction of eminently quotable lines delivered by the perfect cast playing fantastic characters to the hilt in a story that incorporates absolutely everything. And really, it does have everything. The bulk of the movie is the story of Westley and his true love, Buttercup and how they’re parted and then have to face off with henchmen and villains in order to be together again. But it’s presented as a story read aloud by a grandfather to his sick grandson. The grandson starts out reluctant, but when his grandfather tells him that the book has “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…“ he says okay and before he knows it, he’s as wrapped up in the story as the rest of us, following Westley as he chases down Buttercup’s kidnappers, dueling with Inigo, wrestling with Fezzik, unwitting Vizzini and eventually facing off with the vile Prince Humperdinck. It is a thoroughly enthralling tale of swashbuckling and evil plans and true love and it not only has some fantastic plotty scenes, but some of the best cinematic swordfighting ever.

When I was in high school I did a lot of theater. Unfortunately my schedule never allowed me to take the theatrical fencing class offered by one of the theater teachers, but I hung out with everyone who did and I know for a fact that she showed the duel between Westley and Inigo as an example of amazing movie fencing. And really, watch it. It’s a wonderful scene. Mandy Patinkin as Inigo is absolutely fantastic and Cary Elwes gets to be dashing and witty. It’s wonderful to watch. So there’s the swordfighting, and that alone would make me happy to watch this movie. But there are also the lines. I think everyone gets something quotable, really. I could list them, but let’s face it, if you like this movie you know the best lines (okay, all the lines) already. The most well known are things like Inigo’s “My name is Inigo Montoya” bit, the wedding ceremony, and Westley’s “To the pain” speech, but everyone else gets a line that makes me grin. One of the first times Andy and I hung out together we ended up quoting Miracle Max and his wife together, spontaneously. And every actor delivers a great performance here. Mandy Patinkin, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, plus cameos from Carol Kane and Billy Crystal? That’s a hell of a cast. And they mesh together brilliantly to produce amazing scene after amazing scene.

By the end of this movie, when true love triumphs and our heroes ride off on their white horses, it’s all just been so perfectly wonderful that I can’t help but smile as I listen to Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack. There is not a single thing about this movie that I dislike. It’s a fantastic movie. It’s a fairytale. It’s a book adaptation that is so perfectly crafted that reading the book feels like watching the movie feels like reading the book. It’s a melding of formats that is the sort of thing other book-to-movie adaptations strive to reach and usually miss. So, I’m sorry if it’s not your thing. It’s mine. And it’s a cultural touchstone that’s not going anywhere. It’s a classic. It’s perfect. And if I was going to watch a movie after getting home from an evening spent in a hospital waiting room? This is the best one to watch.

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November 23, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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