Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Princess Bride

Directed by Rob Reiner and written by William Goldman from his own novel, The Princess Bride is the story about a young woman who is devastated by the loss of a stable boy she fell in love with as she is set to marry a prince only to be kidnapped and later meets a mysterious pirate. While the main narrative is set in medieval times in a fictional country called Florin, the film is largely told in present time as it’s a story read by a man to his flu-ridden grandson. Starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Fred Savage, and Peter Falk as the grandfather. The Princess Bride is a remarkable film from Rob Reiner.

The film is a genre-bender where it has adventure, comedy, drama, and romance which revolves around a soon-to-be princess and the stable boy she loved who was later supposedly killed by a notorious pirate. Upon being kidnapped by criminals who are hired to start a war for the prince she’s to marry, she later encounters the notorious pirate who supposedly had killed her true love. It’s a film that has a simple and unique premise but with characters that subvert the idea of caricatures as many of them aren’t exactly what they seem they are. All of which is told by a man reading a book to his grandson (Fred Savage) who is bed-ridden with an illness.

What makes the story so unique is the way William Goldman creates a script with characters and dialogue that doesn’t play into the conventions of a typical romantic-adventure. Especially as the protagonists in Buttercup (Robin Wright) and Westley (Cary Elwes) are atypical of what is expected in the roles of a damsel-in-distress/love interest and hero, respectively. What Westley and Buttercup have is true love that is shattered when Westley seeks to find fortune on a ship only to have that ship attacked by the infamous pirate known as the Dread Pirate Roberts. For Buttercup, Westley’s supposed death was the end for her as she reluctantly gets engaged to Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) who only wants her for his royal stature and later use her as a pawn to start a war with a rivaling country with the help of a trio of criminals.

The trio themselves deviate from what is expected in an adventure story as the master swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) is a kind man who is seeking for a six-fingered man who killed his father many years ago. The other two is a gentle and strong giant named Fezzik (Andre the Giant) with a gift for rhyming and a Sicilian mastermind named Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) who is a cruel taskmaster that constantly insults Inigo and Fezzik. Add the presence of Prince Humperdinck and his second-in-command Count Rugen (Christopher Guest), they become the kind of forces that Westley and Buttercup have to deal with as the grandfather tells his grandson this unique story where the grandson deals with the constant details about kissing as well as what he might thinks happen in the story. Instead, Goldman’s script has this sense of language and narrative that is very engaging but also that is very funny. Even in some of the dialogue that is playful and also very witty over the situations that occur.

Rob Reiner’s direction is very simple and understated at times but also full of whimsy that adds to the unconventional presentation of the story. Much of the film is shot in locations in Britain and Ireland in the countryside and castles where Reiner uses a lot of wide shots to play into the beauty of those locations along with some amazing shots of Westley and Buttercup kissing against the sunlight. There’s also some great use of medium shots and close-ups to play into the sense of drama and humor in the film as Reiner. Especially in the latter where it is very offbeat in the presentation that includes an albino (Mel Smith) who doesn’t play to the conventions of an assistant torturer and a clergyman (Peter Cook) who can’t pronounce “R”s and “L”s.

The sense of adventure includes an amazing sword duel between the mysterious Dread Pirate Roberts and Inigo where there’s an air of respect in the duel between the two which is different between the eventual duel that Inigo would have with the man who killed his father. There’s also moments of suspense such as the duel between Vizzini and Roberts where it’s a battle of wits. Much of the compositions that Reiner creates for these scenes and in the scenes between the grandfather and grandson are quite simple as he is going more for performances rather than gimmicks and such. Overall, Reiner crafts a very sensational and lively film about true love, sword fighting, and thrills told from a grandfather to his grandson.

Cinematographer Adrian Biddle does excellent work with the film‘s gorgeous look for many of its daytime exterior scenes to display a natural look while using some lighting schemes for some of the interior scenes. Editor Robert Leighton does superb work with the editing where it is straightforward while using some rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s action and suspenseful moments. Production designer Norman Garwood, with set decorator Maggie Gray and supervising art director Keith Pain, does brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of the castle interiors as well as the look of the Cliffs of Insanity.

Costume designer Phyllis Dalton does wonderful work with the costumes from the dresses that Buttercup wears as well as the clothes of Count Rugen and Prince Humperdinck. Makeup designer Peter Montagna does great work with the look of a couple of characters Fezzik and Inigo meets to help aid them for the climax. Sound editor Lon Bender does terrific work with the sound in some of the film‘s sound effects as well as some of the tone of the locations. The film’s music by Mark Knopfler is fantastic for its enchanting and touching score that features a lot of plaintive guitars and a mixture of playful orchestral music with old-school folk music while the song Storybook Love is a lovely song co-written by Knopfler and its singer Willy DeVille.

The casting by Janet Hirsheson and Jane Jenkins is incredible as it features some notable small role from Betsy Brantley as the boy’s mother, Willoughby Gray and Anne Dyson as the king and queen of Florin, Margery Mason as an ancient booer, Mel Smith as the quirky albino, Peter Cook in a hilarious performance as the clergyman, Billy Crystal as the miracle man Miracle Max, Carol Kane as Max’s wife Valerie, Fred Savage in a terrific performance as the grandson, and Peter Falk in a brilliant performance as the grandfather reading the story. Christopher Guest is excellent as the very dark yet calm Count Rugen who is proven to be a master of torturer with a machine that sucks life out of a person. Chris Sarandon is superb as Prince Humperdinck as this cowardice prince who tries to create plans to start a war against a rival country while not being able to fool Buttercup. Wallace Shawn is amazing as the very cunning and intelligent Vizzini who masterminds the kidnapping as he constantly says “inconceivable” whenever some things he planned don’t work.

Andre the Giant is fantastic as the gentle giant Fezzik as he has some of the best lines while proving that he’s a giant with a nice heart. Mandy Patinkin is brilliant as Inigo Montoya as a master swordsman who is trying to find the man that killed his father many years ago while being a key player into storming the castle in the film’s climax. In her film debut, Robin Wright is great as Buttercup as this young woman who reluctantly becomes engaged to a cruel prince as she deals with lost love as she proves to be someone that defies the convention of a princess. Finally, there’s Cary Elwes in a marvelous performance as Westley as this man of such kindness and generosity who truly loves Buttercup while also being a man of great skill as well as bringing in some witty banter.

The Princess Bride is a phenomenal film from Rob Reiner. Thanks to a top-notch ensemble cast, William Goldman’s witty screenplay, and Mark Knopfler’s lush score. It’s a film that has something for everyone and more. Especially as it bends genres and make it something of its own. In the end, The Princess Bride is an outstanding film from Rob Reiner.

Rob Reiner Films: This is Spinal Tap - (The Sure Thing) - (Stand By Me) - (When Harry Met Sally) - (Misery) - (A Few Good Men) - North - (The American President) - (Ghosts of Mississippi) - (The Story of Us) - (Alex & Emma) - (Rumor Has It…) - (The Bucket List) - (Flipped) - (The Magic of Belle Isle)

© thevoid99 2014


Nikhat said...

I lurve this film! So funny and sweet and such great characters.
Nice review :)

ruth said...

I forgot Rob Reiner made this one! I haven't seen it in ages but it's certainly has become a cult classic. Interesting that it's perhaps Cary Elwes & Mandy Patinkin's most memorable work to this date, though Robin Wright's career has fared much better.

Great review, you made me want to watch this again Steven!

thevoid99 said...

@Nikhat-Thank you. I love this film as well.

@ruth-It was on TV a few days ago and I've seen it so many times as I decided to just write a review about the film. It's certainly one of Rob Reiner's best films before he decided to make shitty movies.