Sunday, March 16, 2014

Knight Moves

A Knight's Tale
Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany, Shannyn Sossamon, Berenice Bejo, Laura Fraser
Released: May 11, 2001
Viewed in theaters: May 11, 2001

This was Heath Ledger's first movie where he played the lead. There are three main instances where he became known in the public eye. The first, was this, his first starring role; the second was his Oscar-nominated turn in Brokeback Mountain; and the third was his critically-acclaimed performance in The Dark Knight which was sadly overshadowed by his death. Now, I don't want to brag or anything, but I was a Heath Ledger fan (oh, okay, fangirl!) before any of those movies. Heath had a lot of female admirers before 2001, but, trust me, A Knight's Tale cinched many more! I know this for a fact because after 10 Things I Hate About You and The Patriot, I raved about him to my friend. Did I praise his amazing talent and tell her to watch out for a few Oscar nominations in his future? Haha, please! I was a shallow college student! I was going on about how hot he was and how I loved his Australian accent (those are seriously the best!) I was a little infatuated, you could say. My friend agreed he was cute but she wasn't as into him as I was....until she saw A Knight's Tale (more than once!) and suddenly starts raving to ME about how hot he is and I'm thinking, This is what I've been telling you all along! It was like she suddenly saw the light. It was pretty amusing!

I wasn't the biggest fan of this movie the first time I saw it. I just couldn't get past how these 14th century people could sing Queen and dance to David Bowie when obviously that music didn't exist back in those days, duh! (Or, in the words of Wat, "Hellooooo!") But after seeing its sort-of-but-not-really sequel, The Order (same director and stars Ledger, Addy, and Sossamon), I came to appreciate this movie and realize, despite a few flaws (and if you can look past the music, which I have), it is quite an entertaining movie. Or maybe The Order was just that bad! Ha!

Ledger plays William Thatcher, a poor peasant who takes on the alias of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein so he can compete in jousting tournaments. He has to hide the fact that he is poor because only nobles are allowed to compete in tournaments. He practices jousting with his friends, Roland (Addy) and Wat (Tudyk). They meet famous writer Geoffrey Chaucer (Bettany)  - even though they don't know who he is - and he's the one who comes up with William's new name and forges his signature so he can compete as a noble.

"Excuse me, did you just say you named
your son Audio Science?!?"
William falls in love with the beautiful Jocelyn (Sossamon) who is wealthy and only knows him as Ulrich. She is a little weary of his courting at first as he is just another guy trying to get her attention. I used to think she was a major bee-yotch for making him lose those jousting matches to prove his love for her, and furthermore, I thought he was a love sick fool for going through with it and letting her walk all over him, but now I can kind of understand where she's coming from. It doesn't mean anything to her that knights tell her they'll win a tournament for her because that's expected of them anyway. Making him choose between her or winning the match was brilliant on her part. Evil, but brilliant. It's a great ultimatum for every woman to have! And it was sweet of him to lose to show her that he did love her, but honestly, if some guy, no matter how hot he was, came up to me and said the things William said to Jocelyn, I'd probably laugh in his face. Or roll my eyes. "Love has given me wings so I must fly!"; "If I could ask for one thing, it would be for time to stop so I can be in this moment with you forever!"; "I would give my ears just to hear your name!" And let's not forget the love letter. Good Lord, that was filled with cheesy goodness.

There are two actresses (basically the other two that aren't Shannyn Sossoman since there are only three women in the whole movie!) who would go on to become more well known in projects much later on in their careers. The first is Berenice Bejo who would later go on to play the female lead in The Artists ten years later. (A perfectly nice movie, but a bit forgetful even if it did win the Oscar). She plays Jocelyn's lady-in-waiting, or personal assistant. Wikipedia says her character's name is Christina, but honestly, I don't even remember her ever being called by her name. At first, whenever she is on screen she doesn't have any lines (early practice for The Artist, ha!), but she does eventually get to speak. I would be totally annoyed if I were her because whenever she's around Jocelyn, Jocelyn gets complimented about her looks by everyone and they just treat her lady-in-waiting like she's invisible when she's a very pretty girl too!

And then there's Laura Fraser who plays Kate, the blacksmith, who joins William's entourage and makes William a new suit of armor that's thinner, but still as strong, so he can easily move around in it. Fraser is best known for playing everyone's favorite stevia-addicted neurotic who can provide an "ocean of methylamine." That's right, I'm talking about Lydia Rodarte-Quayle from Breaking Bad, which just so happens to be my favorite show of all time. It's a good thing William wasn't interested in Kate since we know she's not into blondes! (Oh, Todd, you poor, creepy, guy). She's very fresh-faced and cute and not so uptight in this film! And she does speak with her own natural Scottish accent. There's not a murderous bone in her body! 

"Will, I am!"
After reading Michael Crichton's Timeline (which also takes place in the same century), I became quite intrigued with the time period. There's a chapter where two characters are jousting against each other and I didn't realize what a dangerous sport it was until I read that book. I mean, from the movie I could tell it looked a bit painful, but it takes a lot of precision and you can easily get killed if someone aims the lance at your head. Which is why the last scene where William jousts without his armor or a helmet AND just got stabbed in the chest if a little bit WTF?, but I think everyone knew he was going to win. After all, his blind father was "watching". Supposedly they have modern-day jousting with "strict guidelines" (yawn!) and "development of the use of breakable lance tips for safety" (boring!) You know it's lame compared to the bloodshed and excitement of the real thing. Don't you wish you lived in the 14th century? Yeah, me neither. 

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