Monday, April 20, 2015

You Wish

I saw As You Wish in the library and checked it out.  It's a book by actor Cary Elwes about his experience as the lead in The Princess Bride.  It also includes the voices of many others who worked on the film, such as Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin and Fred Savage, as well as author/screenwriter William Goldman and director Rob Reiner.  It seems to be selling well.

The Princess Bride is a phenomenon more common in the age of home video--a film that didn't do particularly well when released but became a beloved classic anyway when word of mouth spread. It recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala showing in New York, attended by much of the cast and over a thousand fans who shouted out their favorite bits of dialogue as the film unspooled.

The stories Elwes tells (aided by collaborator Joe Layden) are reasonably entertaining.  He talks about how he was cast, injuries he got during shooting, weeks of swordfighting rehearsals, going out on the town with cast member Andre the Giant, etc. It's also a book (not unlike the movie) with a generous spirit--pretty much every cast and crew member is described as incredibly nice and supremely talented.

If I have a problem with the book, it's a personal one--I'm halfhearted about the film.  I like it, but I still remember how disappointing I found it.  As a director, Rob Reiner had started with three home runs: This Is Spinal Tap (another film that became a classic after the fact), The Sure Thing and Stand By Me. Then came The Princess Bride, which, though well-reviewed, was more a bloop single.

The problem is the film tries to do a lot and only manages to do a little. I can't be sure whose fault it is, but it's probably Reiner's.  It tries to be a romance, a comedy, a satire, a kid's movie, a period piece and a swashbuckling adventure, but generally falls short.  Reiner had shown a knack for contemporary comedy, but the romance, the action, the costume drama, seem beyond him.  Which leaves us with a minor and somewhat disjointed comedy.  And though Elwes and Reiner keep mentioning how the casting couldn't have been better, I think it could.  There are some eccentric performances, and a solid one at the center (Robin Wright's, not Elwes'), but the only one who really stands out to me is Mandy Patinkin.

Elwes, by the way, comes across as a humble, decent man.  I hope he never reads this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks- I have always felt similarly- I liked it but felt like it could have been much better. It seemed too slight

5:44 AM, April 20, 2015  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

As a film, it tracks almost word for word the original book. I found the film better than the book, which I do think of as a children's book, whereas the film offers a lot for adults.

I do find The Princess Bride eminently rewatchable, and that's a plus for me. The humor remains clever and bears repeating. How ofetn do you say to a talking head on TV "That word, I do not think it means what you think it means."

8:28 AM, April 21, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I haven't read the original William Goldman book, though Cary Elwes makes clear Goldman cared more about this one than any other he wrote, and he cared more about the movie project than any other he'd worked on. Goldman also says his book has affected people more deeply than any other he wrote.

I got the impression the original book feature an extensive metaplot about a guy named William Goldman and his family and a supposed book called The Princess Bride--all made up but written in a way real enough to fool many readers. Doesn't sound like a simple kids' book to me. Of course, this stuff was cut from the film, though it does have the Peter Falk/Fred Savage stuff to fill in.

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