Monday, August 16, 2010
The Good Parts
Once again overcome with laziness, Mike and I have managed to get one of our friends to do some blog-writing for us, in this case, my lovely wife.
To say that I love this movie would be a gross understatement. My absolute adoration of The Princess Bride is nothing short of an obsession. One that forces me to watch it almost every time it appears on television, regardless of whatever productive activity I should be pursuing (and there are many). One that initiated a rather odd friendship many years ago, based solely on a shared love of the movie (and the ability to repeat entire scenes to each other verbatim for hours on end). One that requires my making a beeline to the letter 'G' in the fiction section of any used bookstore, searching frantically for 'William Goldman' (not to be confused with William Golding, of Lord of the Flies fame) to see if there are any books by him, and if by chance they have a copy of The Princess Bride, forcing me to buy it (because it may have a different cover, be a different edition, or someone might be in need of a spare someday, or (gasp!) perhaps have not yet even read it). It's not because I need another copy (at last count, I have six---but there are a few boxes that were not unpacked from the last move, and I suspect I may have more) but rather because I am compelled. In a way, it’s similar to missionaries spreading the gospel. And it is, unfortunately, the same reason that, in my youth, I searched for and watched some truly wretched movies only because Cary Elwes played a part (thankfully, I came to my senses before the first Saw was released).
Still, it's difficult to describe why The Princess Bride resonates with me so intensely. I can say for certain that it’s not the acting, or the high adventure, the swashbuckling, or the humor---although I certainly find these things enjoyable. But these are simply the means for delivering the message. That message being simply that life isn’t fair, and that anyone that tries to tell you differently is selling something. A philosophy that even as a child I could relate to.
Movies, at least the ones I saw growing up, usually tell a very different story. The story ends, however improbably, with a happily ever after. Which is all fine and good as long as you don’t expect everything in your life to end that same way. And most kids, like me, are stupid (having not yet met with much disappointment in their young lives) and don’t understand that distinction: they expect to be the star athlete, to escape the punishment for breaking the window, to get the girl or guy in the end, or to have their favorite movie be offered as part of Metro Classics during the first series, and not the tenth, all because they practiced hard, really wanted to, or (gulp) simply felt they deserved to have that happily ever after ending. That is the genius of the Fred Savage/Peter Falk storyline. It acknowledges children's ingrained expectation that everything have a happy ending, and yet counters that with bits of reality that brings both the audience and reader back to the real world with all of its failings and disappointments, and tells us that life will still be OK. It is the perfect blend of cynicism and hope, of a world where there is dead and mostly dead, all-conquering true love, fire-proof clothing, nasty princes who start unnecessary wars, revenge not quite healing all wounds, and sweet giants saving the day.