563 of 613 people found the following review helpful
I do not think it means what you think it means,
This review is from: The Princess Bride [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I remember when I first saw this movie, around age 13, I had no idea who the Man in Black was through the entirety of the first act. Sure, it's apparent now, given the benefit of hindsight, but because of the actor's anonymity at the time I never made the obvious connection. On top of that, most of the rest of the cast was unknown to me as well (except for the one non-actor, Monsieur Roussimoff, a.k.a. Andre the Giant). The sweeping anonymity of the company allowed the film to do two things: first, the audience isn't distracted by the presence of the Big Star; and second, unknown actors allow for no preconceived notions of their characters. Which in turn allows the filmmakers to subvert character types, and insert some true surprises into the story.
Which, to make a long point even longer, is the whole ethos of the film
William Goldman's book "The Princess Bride", on which this film is based, intended to tell only the 'good parts' version of the story of Westley and Buttercup. That is, it would leave in the high drama and action and romance, while curbing the back-stories and superfluous exposition. William Goldman, in his role as adaptor of the book into a screenplay, remains fiercely loyal to this proposition. He's constructed a framing device, wherein a grandfather is reading to his sick grandson, which allows him to make meta-fictional comments on the seemingly typical fairy tale being told. In doing so, however, he subverts the fairy tale's typicalness, making it much more surprising and revelatory. At one point the grandson worriedly asks about the fate of the villain: "Who kills Humperdinck?" The grandfather calmly answers, "No one. He lives." Which is not only a true statement, for that is exactly what happens, but it doesn't even come close to ruining the end of the story. On the contrary, it increases the suspense, and makes what does happen quite astonishing.
Rob Reiner, in only his third time out in the director's chair, does a wonderful job of translating Goldman's script to the screen. He utilizes elements, whether by choice or by budgetary restraints, that would at first appear incongruous, but work as a whole to keep the audience off-balance, and thus more receptive to the surprises the movie has in store for them.
The acting is, stylistically, all over the place. It ranges from the unabashed over-the-top passion of Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), to the bumbling buffoonery of Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), to the gentle anti-acting of Andre the Giant (Fezzik), to the unsubtle Snidely Whiplash villainy of Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdinck), to the Borscht Belt mugging of Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), to the icy malice of Christopher Guest (Count Rugen), and the stark realism of Robin Wright (Buttercup, the title character). No two actors take the same road, but they all somehow arrive at the same location. Cary Elwes, playing the hero, is the only one who falls easily into all these styles, as the situation demands it. He is menacing, suave, cool, funny, athletic, simple, sweet, fierce, etc., etc., etc. Elwes and Patinkin are the standouts for me -- their swordfight atop the Cliffs of Insanity is technically brilliant, literate, and extremely entertaining -- but the entire cast effective. Even the smaller roles (British comedians Mel Smith and Peter Cook each have brief but memorable one-joke cameos) make their mark.
The film's musical score, composed by 'Dire Straits' frontman Mark Knoplfer, swings and sways from moment to moment. In one, he uses stark, bouncy lines to underscore a simple scene of Fezzik and Inigo trading rhymes. In the next, he layers synthesized strings to call up the gravity of the Man in Black's chase. My only problem with the music is the song written for the closing credits: it's weepy and melodramatic, without the sense of subversive fun that had prevailed up until that point.
The sets and scenery switch back and forth between real and obviously fake. Filmed in and around the English countryside, most of the outdoor locations (the severe valley, the woods) breathe reality and beauty into the story. Others, such as the Fire Swamp, the Pit of Despair, and the plateau above the Cliffs of Insanity, have the phony feel of a Hollywood soundstage. Again, the film keeps the audience on their toes.
So now that I am 27 instead of 13, and know back-to-front the filmmographies of all the actors involved, and have seen the film more than a dozen times, and can quote lines from it at the drop of a hat, do I find it any less appealing than on that first viewing? Of course not. Goldman and Reiner's film rewards multiple viewings, with its wit, its playfulness, and most importantly, its subversiveness. Will there ever be a time when I tire of watching it? A time like that is right now, as Vizzini might say, "inconceivable".
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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 3, 2007 12:12:45 AM PDT
P. Kingsriter says:
A fantastic review. Your delight in the subject matter comes through while giving a very even-handed take on the film. One of the best I've read in quite a while. Thanks.
Posted on Nov 30, 2007 10:38:02 AM PST
I enjoyed your commentary as much as I enjoyed the movie. In fact, I even imagined you to be the grandson, who has now grown older to tell the rest of us how he had first heard the story read to him by his entertaining grandfather. Thank you for the awesome review!
Posted on May 17, 2008 8:05:15 AM PDT
I remember seeing this as a teenager, too, and being one of the few that didn't like it. But, my husband recalls it with fond memories and my daughter has asked me to order it, too. Because of your wonderful review, I'm truly looking forward to seeing this film again. Thank you!
Posted on Jan 17, 2009 10:49:30 AM PST
Jennifer Smith says:
What a great review! PB is one of the best, isn't it?
Posted on Nov 11, 2009 5:52:13 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 11, 2009 5:52:53 PM PST]
Posted on Jan 5, 2010 10:48:39 PM PST
excellent review, I feel the same. you said it so well, i relived the movie and the feelings as i read your review. <wipes a tear>. Definitely a must see, and must see again, movie. Thanks.
Posted on Oct 26, 2010 9:29:20 AM PDT
Posted on Nov 30, 2010 4:07:20 PM PST
David F. Vance Jr says:
Out of all the films I've enjoyed in my life, there was never a more pure, or perfect kiss from the crew to the viewer. This film has remained a bedrock of my life, and like this reviewer, I can't ever conceive of a time where I would NOT want to enjoy another view of it. Humongous thanks to Goldman, Reiner, and the entire crew for creating one of the simplest films with the most enjoyment.
Posted on Apr 8, 2011 6:30:05 PM PDT
Posted on May 18, 2011 7:56:30 AM PDT
I also LOVED your review; probably because it echoed everything I feel about the movie .
THANK YOU for a not only informative but Highly Entertaining narrative.
"As You Wish"......