I know Cary Elwes from Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), most girls from my generation know him from The Princess Bride (1987).
The Princess Bride assumes a story-time frame as The Grandfather (Peter Falk) tells his sick Grandson (Fred Savage) an adventurous fairytale of true love between Buttercup (Robin Wright) and Westley (Cary Elwes). Directed by Rob Reiner, the film is a mix of adventure, fantasy, comedy and romance, and features a memorable supporting performance by Mandy Patinkin.
It’s an odd film.
And since seeing it for the very first time this past Monday, I have been trying to put my finger on what it is about The Princess Bride that did not work and what it is about The Princess Bride that made a generation of girls love it so much.
This Crazy Little Thing Called Fairy Tale Love
The stories my mother read to me as a child and the storybooks available to me in our household “library” were predominantly fairy tales. Princesses and princes falling in love. Young women being swept off their feet by a charming young man. A love based on an attraction dictated by fate. A love realistically unattainable. An ideal notion most girls attached themselves to. So, as girls our attachment to this endearing fantasy of true love seems to be exploited in The Princess Bride, but not only that; as maturing girls becoming all the more self-aware and disillusioned by that fantasy, the parody of it was appealing, ultimately entrapping since an ideal ending is achieved. The film is escapism in all its glory further exemplified by…
The Debonair Swashbuckler!
Alright. I’ll admit it. Cary Elwes is dreamy in The Princess Bride. His youthful good looks and deep blue eyes are what constitute the archetypal prince charming. But what is further cause to swoon over him is his performance! Elwes does not get due credit for his acting and, though, his role in The Princess Bride reminded me so much of his performance in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Elwes brings to the table a palpable leading man character. His intense, unwavering stare in that scene where Buttercup, unbeknownst to her that this masked swashbuckler is her beloved Westley, relates to him how much Westley meant to her brought so much tension to the scene.
There’s Funny and Then There’s Mel Brooks
The Princess Bride made me chuckle here and there. Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya made me smile and I was quite amused overall, but the comedy kinda fell flat. It’s not so much the script as it is the director. Don’t get me wrong, I love This is Spinal Tap (1984), but Rob Reiner disappointed me with the cheap-looking sets, the bad lighting and the awkward cinematography that did no justice to the gags in the script. Perhaps a director well-versed in the art of slapstick comedy would have succeeded in crafting a film with good comedic timing…
Alas, as I was watching The Princess Bride, I kept telling myself: “Why isn’t Mel Brooks directing this film? Why?” I was really upset.