Friday, May 3, 2013

# 82: The Princess Diaries (2001)

Code-name: Fat Louie

Director: Garry Marshall
Type: Disney/teen/comedy

Mia Thermopolis- Anne Hathaway
Queen Clarisse Renaldi- Julie Andrews
Joseph "Joe"- Hector Elizondo
Lilly Moscovitz- Heather Matarazzo
Michael Moscovitz- Robert Schwartzman
Helen Thermopolis- Caroline Goodall
Lana Thomas- Mandy Moore
Josh Bryant- Erik Von Detton
Charlotte Kutaway- Kathleen Marshall
Paolo- Larry Miller
Vice Principal Gupta- Sandra Oh

[Program Note]
Hopefully, I will have my review of "Iron-Man 3" posted by Monday. Going to see it in a couple days.


fyi, Fat Louie is Mia's cat

what can I say? I'm an animal lover, so whenever there's a prominent animal in these films, I like to give them out as the code-names.

I might be in the midst of changing my mind about something I posted earlier this week.
I might have more in common with Anne Hathaway's character in this film, the first place the majority of us saw her and fell in love with her

of course, the commonality is minus the royal blood and all that

Mia is an awkward teenage girl who has made her way through life as a nobody, someone who is invisible. ["Somebody sat on me again..."]
She doesn't really fit in anywhere, she doesn't look particularly beautiful (although it's a lot tougher in this particular prep school when you have Mandy Moore and her cheerleading clones to compare yourself to), and like me, we have a fear of public speaking.

I don't faint or get sick the way she does, but neither of us are huge fans of it. My biggest issue is being able to project, speak clearly and above all, maintain eye contact.
Even in a small group of people or one-on-one, you'd think I had this fear of looking into people's eyes as if doing so would suck my soul out of my body... oddly enough, that's an opinion people have about mirrors and I kinda like to avoid those too.

One thing that makes a word of difference in high school; when all else fails, your best friend will always have your back.
Lilly is a very outspoken individual who is very much an individual who tries to get other people involved in her causes, with very little luck, obviously.

The movie is based on a book series by Meg Cabot.
Years ago, I found the book in a pile of paperbacks being given away for practically nothing. But because I saw the movie first and am very much a fan of it, I was beyond disappointed with it. Other than the characters' names and the fact Mia is a princess, it was nothing like the movie.
I vaguely remember there being a lot of whining on Mia's part and a lot of antagonism coming from Lilly's character. I got through it, but really don't feel up to reading it again.

Earlier, in preparation for writing about the movie, I watched it again.
Occasionally, I like to dabble with DVD commentaries because I'm a sucker for movie trivia and secrets behind the making.
...this was a bit of a mistake because our two stars, Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, were talking over the entire movie. I had to put on subtitles so I could still get into it.
So on that note, I wouldn't personally recommend DVD commentary unless you know the movie by heart, so in case the people involved are talking over it, you won't miss anything.

Probably the most interesting fact I picked up was that the guy who played Michael is actually related to Nicholas Cage... either his son or nephew...
Granted, I'm not a huge Nicholas Cage fan (except for the "National Treasure" movies), but that was kinda cool to know.
And also that the woman who played Charlotte is Garry Marshall's daughter

gee, no wonder she'd been in a bunch of his movies. Hector Elizondo probably holds the record for being in ALL of them. I guess you could say he's somewhat of a lucky charm.

Onto the story:
anyone who's seen the trailers knows that Mia learns from her visiting grandmother that she is a princess and heir to the throne of Genovia... which is a small, fictional country located between Spain and France.
And she is the most reclutant princess you can imagine. Then again, she is a teenager, a girl becoming a woman with hormones and all that, so she is entitled to a freak-out.

She consents to visit her grandmother every day after school for princess lessons, which is kinda like a "My Fair Lady" transition, but in very little time... 10-15 minutes opposed to a quarter of the entire movie...
this is one of the best uses of comedy with all of Mia's awkward moments of falling over and goofing around and such...
the rest is helped along by this Italian stylist/hairdresser (I'm not sure of his exact occupation), who gives Mia a much-needed make-over.
Getting rid of the glasses and eyebrows, giving out mani-pedi's and facials, and of course a massive job with the hair.

I was kinda pissed when I found out that her crazy, frizzy hair pre-make-over was a wig. It would explain how her smooth locks are so easily kept through the rest of the movie.
I would kill for hair like that. No matter what shampoo or hair product I use, I can't seem to get it to look THAT good.
They say beauty is pain, so if I really wanted it, I suppose I can spend hours on my hair everyday. I just would rather not be one of those people :-P I'm lazy like that.

After the transformation, Mia has to tell Lilly what's going on and she's completely onboard with it, thrilled. (In the book, she was moaning and groaning about it for ages, I seem to recall).
The cheerleaders continue to rag on her, believing she got the makeover to try to fit in.

When the movie was made, Mandy Moore was pretty big in music. I considered her among the big four in the female pop music scene, along with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson.
None of them are nearly the tour de force they used to be.
Britney recently went techno, Jessica Simpson changed over to country and is suddenly a name in fashion designing (I'm uber skeptical), and Christina broke out and found a genre all her own outside of pre-packaged bubblegum.

...her first album was one of the first ones I bought, I literally like half the songs, and I have been unable to connect with her ever since. Meanwhile fans of "The Voice" are praying against her coming back because they all seem to believe she's too self-absorbed. And I agree...

Mandy Moore went into acting after this, but I'd only seen her in "A Walk to Remember," a movie that made me crying my eyes out for quite some time afterwards. And it was more than just the fact it was a sad ending.

Anyways, I liked her in the music scene, but I wasn't an avid fan beyond 2-3 songs. Her singing came up in this film and she looked/sounded great. Her character was just horrible, bringing home that catty cheerleader vibe. I'd say more, but this is a Disney movie...
As for her boyfriend, Josh Bryant, he had the biggest crush on Erik Von Detton when the movie came out. The only other time I saw him was in the made-for-TV movie "Christmas Every Day" (yes, it is literally "Groundhog's Day" with a Christmas twist, but great all the same).

Mia has a huge crush on him and when the secret comes out that she's a princess, he starts to put the moves on her. Unfortunately, there were no real feelings there and he used her for a publicity stunt.
However disastrous it all goes, Mia brings it home with one of the best lines in the movie:
"...and my foot didn't even pop."
going to the beach party under the assumption she'd get her first real kiss from Josh and her foot would incline backwards like in all those old movie kissing scenes.
I don't think I'd seen any girl's foot pop in any movie other than this, but I'll keep looking for that cliché.

The biggest highlight for me as a whole is the bodyguard/chaffeur, Joe, played by Hector Elizondo. Another example of a role that made me fall in love with an actor.
He has such a subtle sense of sarcasm (sweet, some alliteration) in his great one-liners.
Some examples include:

him telling Mia that she can call him Joe, she tries "Joey" and he laughs it off with a no.

Mia: Hey Joe? Can we park a block away from school? I really don't want to cause a riot with this hearse.
Joe: This is a non-riot hearse. And if it were a hearse there would be silence in the backseat.

"Strange town, San Francisco. When I purchased the pumps, they asked if I wanted them wrapped or if I was going to wear them out."

but beyond that subtlety, he is such a sweet character you can't help but feel safe in his hands.
After the trip to school in the limo where Lilly is ragging on Mia post-make-over, he adds:
"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent."

I'm not quite sure what it is or why it is, but Garry Marshall seems to have a gift with directing female-centric movies like this. His biggest being "Pretty Woman," and a lot of the same themes repeat here.
I don't know. Some men are just exceptionally gifted with that. Kinda like Nicholas Sparks with writing chick lit that magically appear on screen within a couple years of their publication. I have yet to read any of his work, but I'd seen a few of the inspired films.
Of The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Dear John, and The Lucky One, "The Lucky One" is my favorite... simply because it had the happiest ending and I wanted to hang out with the characters forever.

The man also has a gift with comedy, whether it's Joe's one-liners or the slapstick, physical comedy that occurs (as noted in the DVD commentary) during the first big dinner Mia attempts as the future princess and heir to the throne.
The next big thing I really get into when it comes to movies after all the things to do with the actors is great scripts with great lines. Further down this list, I'll take note of a few of my personal favorites, some of which are from the past couple years where the scripts either read my mind in reading into the human condition or they take an angle in a commonplace situation I wouldn't have anticipated otherwise.

As far as Disney movies go, this one is great all around. It's great for people of all ages, obviously geared more towards girls and women. There are several themes to keep in mind, whether it's Cinderella or My Fair Lady or whatever... at the end of the day, you get a female who feels enpowered enough to rise to the occasion.

Mia makes her way through one final speech [in one piece, might I add] and accepts being the heir of Genovia. 
Michael shows up to the gala and she gives him my favorite line in the whole movie.

Michael: Why me?
Mia: Because you saw me when I was invisible

It makes me all warm and fuzzy :-P

It's also kinda nice to point out that the scene where Mia arrives at Genovia was added at the very end of production. Garry Marshall's granddaughter personally requested to see where Mia would end up living, so they tacked that on.

[speaking of sequels...spoiler alert]

At some point, I'll probably go in length in how I feel about sequels, but for now, I'll take them as the opportunites present themselves.

The sequel subtitled "The Royal Engagement" more or less has the same formula where Mia is awkwardly trying to make through a situation and comes out on top.
I saw it in the theaters and thought it was great... until the last 10 minutes.
The big thing about it was who would Mia's future husband be...

and she picks NOBODY... there's a suggestion that she'll eventually marry Chris Pine, but they never take it that far. It was the last Princess Diaries film and I think there were a few more books in the series.
To this day, I'm still irked about it and I flipped out even more when "Snow White & The Huntsmen" had a familiar ending. At least that movie is getting a sequel

Finally, I'd like to point out that both have great soundtracks. This one is mostly one-hit wonders, with Mandy Moore, BB Mak and Backstreet Boys sprinkled in, whereas the sequel had Lindsay Lohan, Jesse McCartney, Raven-Symone among other Disney-affiliated artists.
As far as bubblegum pop goes, the stuff sounded great, whether it had a lot of substance or not. I'm still very much partial to Jesse McCartney, even though his next album has taken forever to get released :-P

I guess technically, "The Princess Diaries" could also be classified as nostaglia, even though I didn't see it until long after it'd been out on DVD.

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