I don’t typically check social media when I’m at work, but today I had a few minutes between meetings and I opened Twitter. I saw several memes of Westley and Buttercup. I saw a bunch of, “As you wish,” tweets, and my throat constricted in grief.
William Goldman died today.
I remember seeing Mandy Patinkin on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I had no idea who he was, a concept which now, perfectly, seems inconceivable. He was on the show to promote a movie. He showed a clip which involved some swordplay in a corridor and a somewhat precipitous and decidedly unheroic exit. I remember how hard Johnny laughed. The real laugh, not the one reserved for canned stories. I remember thinking, I want to see that movie, and then promptly forgetting about it.
I wouldn’t watch it until the day after my high school graduation. Either my mom or one of my sisters had picked it out at Blockbuster (yep) and we were watching it on our rented VCR (yep.) I was crushingly hung over and pretending not to be. I already had shame around my drinking, so I was sitting with that. I’d have sworn nothing on earth could make me laugh.
The Princess Bride.
You’ve all seen it, right? It used to be my litmus test for whether people were MY people. If you didn’t like it I just didn’t see how a friendship could work. My friend Jim and I used to quote it incessantly. When I first met my now ex-husband it was something we had in common – our mutual love for all things Westley and Buttercup. It’s an unbelievably clever, weird, warped, smart-as-hell movie. It is nearly perfect. Its only flaw, and it’s something I actually kind of adore, is that in the scene where the incomparable Robin Wright (the movie starts with *introducing* Robin Wright, if you can imagine such a thing) is about to unexpectedly step into lightning sand, and as splendid an actress as she is, her face quite clearly says, “I am about to unexpectedly step into lightning sand,” the second before she does so.
It’s beautifully acted (Cary Elwes, Christopher Sarandon, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn… the list goes on and on,) the score is one of the most nuanced and perfect scores in the history of cinema and the writing… Dear God, the writing. The writing is perfection itself. If you’ve not had the joy of reading the book, give yourself that gift. If anything, it’s weirder and funnier than the movie, and the movie is sublime.
I don’t have any deep thoughts to share except that this movie has brought me so much joy in the thirty years I’ve been watching it. I introduced both my kids to it when they were little, and it was as much a part of their childhood as any Disney movie could ever have hoped to be. I secretly think it’s why they both have such twisted, incredible taste in movies.
I don’t know how many times I’d watched Andre bonk Wesley on the head. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered the words, “Never go up against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!” or, “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father – prepare to die!” It never gets old. I laugh as much now as I did when I was seventeen, laying on the bed, pausing the tape to watch parts over and over and over again. I’ve never not owned a copy – first VHS, then DVD. I’ll watch it tonight. I’m betting it’s the first time it makes me cry.
Thank you for a movie that has been a through-line from 17-47. What a prodigious gift you gave the world. Thank you for that story – I love it so much. It’s a true love, and as anyone who has ever spent time with Buttercup and her Farm Boy knows, that doesn’t happen every day. I console myself with the knowledge that, like your hero after his time on The Machine, you are only mostly dead. Your art lives on in me, my kids, and everyone who has ever spent time in Florin. Rest easy, Mr. Goldman. Have fun storming the castle.