Thursday, July 26, 2018

Teen Royalty

The Princess Diaries
Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore
Released: August 3, 2001

The Princess Diaries is a cute movie. That's about the highest compliment I can give it. The title isn't exactly accurate because (spoiler alert!) she doesn't become a princess until, like, the last five minutes of the movie. It's based on the 2000 book by Meg Cabot. I've never read it, but I believe it's written entirely in diary format, hence the title. I knew this was a series, but I didn't realize there are well over ten books in it and they're still being written. (Well, the last one published, according to Wikipedia, was in 2015.) It looks like there's spinoffs to this series as well. I really do not know anything about this world! I guess it does make sense there's a series because I'm sure it's fun for young girls to read about this girl who became a princess and how she's living her life now. But we're just going to stick with the first installment.

Mia Thermopolis (played by Anne Hathaway in her first lead role) is a gawky, clumsy, unpopular fifteen-year-old high school student with frizzy hair and glasses. Her only friend at school is Lilly (played by Heather Matarazzo) who is just as unpopular as Mia, but she doesn't care about that and cares more about social issues affecting the world than the social politics at school. Mia has a bad crush on the popular Josh Bryant (which her mom will later refer to as a "Backstreet Boy clone", heh) and often fantasizes about kissing him. For the longest time I thought he was played by Chad Michael Murray because this was around the time he was really popular, but it's not him. His girlfriend is the popular Lana (played by Mandy Moore in her first movie) who is just a mean bee-yotch! There's one particular scene where she's being extra bee-yotchy and Mia shoves an ice cream cone into her cheerleading uniform, which was most definitely deserved.  Lilly's older brother, Michael has a crush on Mia despite her fizzy hair and clumsiness. He'll especially like her more after she gets her makeover. He works at an auto shop and is fixing up Mia's first car, a 1966 Mustang, a sweet ride, if I do say so myself. 

I love how much of a cat person Mia is. She has a black and white cat named Fat Louie (who isn't even fat) who is fairly present throughout the movie and her bedspread has cats on it and she wears cat pajamas and cat shorts. Her wall is decorated with cutouts of cats from magazines (she must subscribe to those pet magazines) and I'm pretty sure I saw one of a Himalayan...I love Himalayans! Her cat's cathouse has stickers and cutouts of cats all over it. There is also a stuffed cat on her bed, although it is an orange cat. You think she would want a black and white stuffed cat to look like her real cat. 

Mia lives in San Francisco with her mother, who is an artist. She must make a killing selling her artwork because they have a pretty nice place. Apparently selling two pieces of her artwork, she was able to afford Mia her car. As far as I know, Mia has never had any type of relationship with her father who recently died within the last couple of months. Her parents met in college and got married very young, then divorced. All Mia knows about her father is that he's from the small European country of Genovia and comes from a wealthy family.

When her grandmother, Clarisse (played by Julie Andrews...okay, how amazing would it be to work with her in your first movie? Anne Hathaway had to be freaking out!) is in town and wants to meet with Mia, Mia is not super enthused as this is the first time her grandmother has shown any interest in her and thinks of her as "snooty". She thinks her grandmother made her parents get a divorce, but her mother tells her it was a mutual agreement. While they're having tea (and the tea Mia is drinking looks super weak), Clarisse asks her if she is familiar with Edward Christof Philippe Gerald Renaldi and when Mia says she isn't, her grandmother drops a bombshell on her when she tells her he's her father and was the Prince of Genovia (making her, Clarisse, the Queen) and now that he's gone, Mia is now the legal and only heir to the throne and she wants to train her to be a princess. Mia has the funny "Shut up!" moment that was in all the trailers when this movie came out, but she is not thrilled at the prospect of becoming a princess as the thought terrifies her and she just wants to remain invisible, something she is good at. Queen Clarisse tells Mia that if she refuses to accept the throne, Genovia will "cease to exist" - I'm not really sure how that works. Surely there is some other blood relative out there like a distant cousin? But goodness, that's a lot of pressure to put on a fifteen-year-old! But hey! Now I understand how Mia's mother is able to afford her daughter a nice car, enroll her in private school, and have a nice house: her ex must have been sending her some nice checks! Now it all makes sense. I knew there was no way that artwork could pay for all that!

We never find out how Mia's father died, but it had to be something that was sudden like a car or plane crash. (Suicide? But that would be really dark!) If he had been sick with cancer or something and they knew he wouldn't have long to live, then surely they would have time to prepare and tell Mia about this before he died?

When Mia confronts her mother who knew about all of this, she tells her that after she and Philippe divorced, they decided that he and Clarisse would keep their distance so Mia could have a normal childhood and that they had planned to tell Mia everything when she turned eighteen. Mia, her mother, and Clarisse all compromise that Mia won't have to make a decision until the Genovia Independence Day Ball, but in the meantime her grandmother will give her princess lessons. This includes how to dress, how to sit and eat properly while dining, how to talk properly, how to wave etc. etc. There's a funny moment when Clarisse is teaching Mia how to sit and tells her, "Princesses never cross their legs in public" and Charlotte, the Queen's assistant, who has been sitting with her legs crossed, very discreetly uncrosses her legs. Instead, they sit with one ankle behind the other. And of course we get the famous montage where Mia gets the She's All That makeover where they give her contacts and do something with her hair (at least in this movie it's a little more than just taking out her ponytail as they get rid of her frizz and give her a sleek, straight hair). Everyone is shocked she is a beauty! Everyone acts like she was so ugly before, but she really wasn't. She just wasn't as polished as she is now. The guy who gave her the makeover is played by Larry Miller (aka the dad from 10 Things I Hate About You) and there's a funny moment when he asks her if she has contacts and she says she does, but doesn't like to wear them. He snaps her glasses in half and tells her she'll be wearing them now. Aghast, she says, "You broke my glasses" and he simply replies, "You broke my brush" because just moments before he had been brushing her unruly hair and the handle broke off when the brush got stuck in her hair. He also tells her, "If Brooke Shields married Groucho Marx, their child would have your eyebrows."

Let's learn some fun facts about Genovia, shall we? (And by the way, when you type it into Wikipedia, it guides you to the page about the Princess Diaries novels). Genovia is a small country located between France and Spain. Now, in this world, is Genovia Andorra? Does Andorra even exist? Are there TWO small countries between France and Spain, Genovia AND Andorra? English and French are the two national languages, the capital is Pyrus (terrible name), they do a lot of trade with Spain (but not with France?), and they are very well known for their pears. Their flag is three vertical stripes of  lime green, white, and turquoise. I'm surprised the colors aren't hot pink, white, and lilac or something really girly like that. Oh, and Julie Andrews is their not too shabby!

The Queen has a driver, Joe (played by Hector Elizondo) who drives Mia to school. When they pick up Lilly, she is wondering what is going on with the limo and Mia's new hair style. Now that Mia has a new look and is carrying a new expensive backpack and riding in a limo, Lilly accuses her of being an "A-crowd wannabe" and that Mia used to care more about what's in her head then what's on it. She is also mad at Mia because she was too busy to sign a petition that was important to her.  Knowing that she might lose Lilly's friendship, Mia tells her what's going on, but swears her to secrecy. The news excites Lilly and she apologizes to Mia. Mia wears a hat to cover her new hairstyle, but Lana points out that students aren't allowed to wear hats in school and the teacher makes Mia take it off. Now you know Lana thinks Mia is wearing a hat because she's having a really bad hair day and just wants to embarrass her, but HA, joke's on you, Lana!

The next day at school, all the paparazzi has arrived at the school because they have learned that Mia is royalty. Lana tells that that she's best friends with Mia. You wish, Lana! Lilly swears to her that she didn't tell anyone. Clarisse and Mia's mom arrive at the school to address the issue with the vice-principal who is played by a pre-Grey's Anatomy Sandra Oh. She is very different from Christina Yang here. She lets the Queen sit in her chair and serves her coffee in a porcelain mug while she offers Mia's mother coffee in a paper cup. She asks her, while kneeling very close to her, "What's it like in Genovia? Do people just fawn all over you?" It turns out that the stylist was the one who told the press about Mia because he wanted the whole world to know that he was the one who gave her the transformation.

Her debut as a princess-in-training is a State Dinner her grandmother is having with a bunch of dignitaries from around the world. It doesn't go quite so smoothly for Mia. You would think when she accidentally catches the sleeve of the person sitting next to her on fire and has to douse his arm in an ice bucket, that would be the biggest scene she caused of the night, but it wasn't. (And also, how did that guy not even notice his arm was on fire until she put it in the ice bucket?) No, the biggest faux pas she makes of the night is when a grape rolls off her plate and she goes under the table to retrieve it (why?) and while she's under the table, the guy next to her gets up and trips over her and he trips a waiter who throws his platter in the air and water and food spill all over the table. It looks like Mia is going to be in serious trouble, but everyone starts laughing. Oh, ha, ha, ha! Whew, that was a close one!

Lilly asks Mia to be on her access cable show Saturday night and Mia promises she'll be there. She is also asked out to a beach party by her crush, Josh, who has recently broken up with Lana. When she tells her mother this and her mom points out that he was never nice to her and Mia says, "He is now", I have to wonder how many brain cells she has. Does she not understand that he's only being nice to her because she's famous and has better hair? The party turns out to be a disaster for Mia because somebody called the press (I wasn't clear if it was Josh or Lana) and when Josh goes in to kiss Mia who isn't ready for it (she wants her first kiss to be perfect and for her foot to "pop" (meaning she wants her foot to lift as she's being kissed like in the old movies)) the paparazzi snaps an awkward photo of them kissing. And if that's not bad enough, when Mia runs away from the press, Lana and her minions "help" Mia by telling her to hide in this changing tent. I actually really thought Lana was being genuine at this moment and did want to be friends with Mia since she was a princess and you would think Lana would want to be on her good side, but nope. While Mia is changing from her bathing suit into her clothes, Lana motions for the press to come over and she tips over the changing tent where we see Mia with just a towel around her and the press starts snapping photos.

Now...I have a huge issue with all this press/paparazzi stuff. I'm trying to imagine this scenario happening in my hometown: a young teenaged girl has been discovered to be the descendant of a royal from a small country and is indeed a princess by birthright. Of course, that would be exciting news. I can see the local news interviewing her and there being a spread about her in the paper. However, I cannot see the paparazzi giving a crap and following her around. Granted, I live in a place where there is no paparazzi, but I really can't see anyone following her around with their cameras and snapping photos because, honestly, I really don't think anybody would care that much. No offense to Genovia, I'm sure it's a lovely country, but does anyone really care about that country? Does anybody even know where it is? I just can't see Mia being followed around by the paparazzi and getting those photos published in the paper. Also, why are they taking photos of her in just a towel? Shouldn't common sense tell them that this isn't right, that they're taking photos of a nearly naked fifteen-year-old girl? And yet these photos are still being published? This smells likes a lawsuit. This makes FRONT PAGE news on the freakin' San Francisco Chronicle. You think it would be in the entertainment or lifestyle section, but no, this is front page news! Interestingly enough, the date is June 11, 2001. Hmm...something tells me in three months nobody is going to care about this anymore!

Her grandmother is disappointed with her because she embarrased the family. Lilly is angry with her because she ditched her radio show to go to the beach party and Mia tells her she forgot to tell her she wouldn't be able to make it. Mia tells her she's decided to abstain from being a princess and this news makes Lilly sad, that even though she's angry and jealous of Mia, she wants her to be a princess because she could have the power to affect change and do something good with her new title. I have to say, Lilly is an amazing best friend. Had I been in her situation, I probably would have persuaded Mia not to take the position. I wouldn't want my best friend to move all the way to Europe! But Lilly realizes that this is an amazing opportunity for Mia and encourages her to rethink about refusing the throne.

Mia also ended up disappointing Michael, who had invited her to see his band practice and then they could get a pizza together, but it was the same day as the beach party and she ended up ditching him to be with Backstreet Boy clone Josh. I have to say that Michael is much better looking for Josh. I really never understood what Mia saw in that douche anyway. Fun fact: Michael is played by Robert Schwartzman (you might be more familiar with his brother, Jason who's been in a lot more movies). He is the son of Talia Shire, who you might remember from my Godfather review, played Connie Corleone. Which means his uncle is Francis Ford Coppola, so that's pretty impressive. To apologize to both Lilly and Michael, Mia invites them to the Genovia Independence Day Ball. Even though she's not going to be a princess, she's still expected to come.

Mia has a neighbor, who is a self-loathing soap opera writer and won an Emmy (daytime, I assume). I really have no idea why he's even in this movie because his scenes add nothing and if you took them away, you wouldn't even notice. The only mildly amusing scene with him is when he's chatting with Joe who's waiting for Clarisse who's visiting with Mia. He tells Joe that he once wrote a character who was a spy, just like him. Joe tells him he's not a spy and the neighbor tells him that that's what the character said too. Yeah, this character was completely unnecessary and didn't add anything to the story at all.  I guess he does give Joe some information about which way Mia went when he's looking for her.

Queen Clarisse tells Mia that she wants to formally renounce her title at the Ball, but Mia has plans to run away to Colorado with her cat. I'm not really sure if she's really thought this entire plan out. Where is she going to stay? Or do about money? However, as she's packing the diary her grandmother gave her for her (early) 16th birthday present that was from her father, an envelope falls out and she reads a letter from her father. Reading this letter makes Mia change her mind and she decides to go to the Ball. She's already late and wearing jeans and a sweatshirt (one of the guests will question her date, "Do you think they're trying to save money on the gown?" when Mia shows up) and it's pouring and she can't get the top up on her convertible so she her to drive without it up. As she's going up that crazy steep hill (if I lived in SF, I would avoid that hill like the plague!), her car doesn't make it, but she is rescued by Joe who has been sent out to look for her. (This is when the neighbor tells him which way she went and how long ago she left). They make it to the Ball and there's an amusing moment where Charlotte is squeezing the water from Mia's hair into a glass as they walk towards the Queen who's about to announce her granddaughter couldn't make it. Mia tells the audience that she had every intention of abdicating the crown, but had a change of heart when she realized how many people she could reach and help if she accepted her title of being a princess. She wants to be forever known as Amelia Minunet Thermopolis Renaldi, Princess of Genovia. (That's a mouthful!)

Mia changes into her princess gown and has her first dance as a princess with Michael. She also has her first real kiss with him and her foot pops to lift a lever. At first I thought she was going to turn the lawn sprinklers on, but it was the lever that turned on all the lights to the fountain so it was this perfect, you might even say, fairy tale kiss. The movie ends with Mia on her private jet (well, it was probably the Queen's private jet) on her way to live in her new palace in Genovia, writing an entry in the journal her dad gave her. So now she's officially a princess and writing in her diary, hence the title. I love that her cat is sitting on a fancy pillow and wearing a tiara. I'm sure he loved that! Michael and Mia spent the summer in Genovia with Princess Mia, but the relationship between Mia and Michael must have fizzled out because he's not in the sequel called Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement where she is looking for a husband. Heh, Chris Pine is the one who plays her romantic interest in that movie.

If they ever write a book where Mia has a baby, they should call it Princess Diaries [insert Roman numeral here]: Mama Mia! 

All hail King Louie

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