Thursday, August 1, 2013

5. The Princess Diaries

2001; dir. Garry Marshall; starring Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Heather Matarazzo, Robert Schwartzman
My views: 20

My sister and my mom saw this when it was in theaters, and I remember them coming home and raving about it.  They kept saying things like "Goodbye, trolley people," so I thought it was probably the weirdest movie I'd ever heard of.  When I finally watched it a few months later, however, it instantly rose to near the top of my list of favorite films, and has remained there ever since.  I have so many great memories associated with watching this film now, since we always seemed to watch it on road trips.  I would also really recommend watching it with audio commentary, especially if you have any doubts about how much Julie Andrews loves tea.  But unlike Ella Enchanted, this movie is amazing even without commentary.

The script is hilarious, and the trolley people part has become one of my favorite movie scenes ever, but I honestly think that it's the cast that really makes this film.  In the hands of lesser actors, this movie would be kind of ridiculous.  But they're all so perfect in their roles that it becomes moving and believable in addition to entertaining.  I don't know who in their right mind could read about mean-spirited, eyeliner-tattoed Grandmère and think Julie Andrews, but since they decided to almost completely disregard Meg Cabot's books, she's perfect for the character the filmmakers created.  Prior to this I had seen and loved Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, and I remember watching My Fair Lady and my mom telling me that Mary Poppins had played the original Eliza Doolittle, but it wasn't until I saw The Princess Diaries that my love of Julie Andrews was truly solidified.  She is my favorite thing about this movie, from "We don't schlump like this" to "Goodbye trolley people" to "Have you ever experienced that instant headache when you eat ice too quickly?"  She is so fabulous I can hardly stand it.  It was not long after seeing this that I started obsessively listening to every soundtrack she was part of, which I still do all these years later.  I actually got to meet her a little over a year ago when she was doing a book signing tour, and I'm pretty sure I came across like Mrs. Gupta in this movie: "What's it like in Genovia? Do people just fawn over you?"  Except I wasn't nearly that coherent.  It was not one of my shining moments.  But when she asked how I was and I stammered out that I was amazing, she said, "Yes, you are."  So I can always say that Julie Andrews has told me that I was amazing.  And it was this movie that started my journey to that moment.

Only slightly less incredible than Julie Andrews's performance in this movie is that of the previously unknown teenage actress named after Shakespeare's wife.  Anne Hathaway brings so much depth and such a sense of reality to Mia that I felt like she was someone I actually knew.  I could really relate to her, as I was terrible in gym class (although I would have loved to have a teacher like hers) and sometimes felt like I was invisible.  But it's all the little silly things that she does in the film, like when she accidentally breaks the statue or talks with her retainer in or unintentionally falls over and keeps the scene going, that make Mia seem more like a real person than a character.  I'm sure a lot of these were in the script, but it's Anne Hathaway that makes them work.

It's not just Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews who have great little moments in this film though: let's not forget Heather Matarazzo's "Wait up! Wait for me! Not you, I don't even know you!" which still cracks me up every time.  And then there are all the random background characters who get one or two hilarious lines, like String Cheese Lady and Umbrella Woman.  It's all the fun little moments like these that got The Princess Diaries onto my Top 5 Most Watched list.  Yes, it's a film that tells a great story about finding one's true identity and true love, but there are so many of those.  I'm pretty sure this is the only one with a character named Mr. Robutusen.


  1. You neglected to mention that Robert Schwartzman is the perfect Michael (who is the perfect fictional boy ever created) but other than that, yes to all of this.

    1. Yeah, I was going to talk about Michael but then I kind of got sidetracked

    2. I was also going to mention the Would you like to see them ma'am? Ahhhh! part but I thought it would be too hard to explain