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Romancing the Stone

April 7, 2009
A  remote  log cabin  somewhere out in the  harsh  desert. The bad guy kicks open the  door,  and  finds  the  heroine  cornered. We get to know her  name is  Angelina,  and  the  bad  guy  happens to be  Grogan, or  in other words

the filthiest, dirtiest, dumbest excuse for a man west of the Missouri River.

He  corners her,  and  asks  her to  strip  before  killing her offering  her the  choice of  death between dying “quick , like the tongue of a snake”  or  “slower than the molasses in January”.   She  removes her top, and as he is staring at her, brings out a knife hidden  under her skirt and throws it  at  him killing him.   That  was  his  end,  the  guy  who killed her  father,  raped  her sister, burned her farm, stole her Bible and shot the dog.  Whew,  and  as Angelina  rides  away  she is  chased by  Grogan’s brothers  wanting  revenge,   until her  knight in shining  armour  Jessie  appears,  kills the bad guys, and  both of them have  a lingering kiss,  as  they ride off  into the sunset.  The End.   
Wait  no,  this  is actually like the beginning, as you wonder  whether  you are watching  another  pulp  Hollywood western,  you see the heroine  Joan  Wilder(  Kathleen Turner), furiously  typing away, and  then  you  realize  that  shucks ,  its  a setup.  Welcome to the opening  credits  of  “Romancing the Stone”, one  of  my  all time  favorite  entertainers.  If not for anything else,  just the  brilliant  caper  director  Robert Zemeckis pulls off  at  the movie  starting,  is  worth it.    But  its  not  just  the  way the user is fooled,  that  makes  the opening  scene so brilliant,  its  what he shows  after.  One moment  you are in  the  Wild  West,  with  cowboys,  bad guys,  desert  and  the next  moment  you are  transported  to the  rather normal  looking  apartment of  Joan Wilder.   Its  the  way  the  heroine’s  character is  set up, a  writer of  adventure romances,  she  lives in her own fantasy  world,  of  longing to be with her  dream hero  Jessie.
The  fantasy  world  she  imagines  is  totally opposite to the  otherwise  unremarkable  world  she  lives in.   Quite  often  as a kid and later as a  teen,  i  would often  just  lie back  and day dream,  sometimes  i wanted  to be a  lone ranger  cowboy like Clint Eastwood, at  another  times a  lone wolf  cop  ala  Dirty Harry or  fighting it out there  in World War II.   Fantasy  was something  that  allowed  me to live  in  another  world,  if  just  to get over the normal  routine life i was having.   And  so here it is  we  see in  Joan’s  character,  a succesful  author,  prim and propah  city  miss,  who never  ever really had a  big  adventure,   leading a rather drab and monotonous life.   In  fact  her  character  is  established  by  her VO  she gives for  Angelina

But  suddenly  there he was, my beloved Jessie. He was the one man I trusted, the only man. My heart leapt  as i watched him ride near.

Yep  absolutely  Hallmarkish  in its tone,  and  that  establishes her for  what  she is  a hopeless romantic,  awaiting  her mystery lover  to sweep  her  away.  But  also  a tongue in cheek look at the romance genre.
Joan  however  needs  to  deal  with more  real  issues. Her  sister  Elaine,  has  been  held  to ransom by  a  group  of   crooks, Ira(Zack Norman)  and  Ralph( Danny  De Vito)  in  Colombia.   Elaine’s   husband  had been  earlier  kidnapped  and  murdered  brutally.   Joan  gets  a mysterious  package  containing  a sort of  treasure  map,  which  her sister asks to bring  to  Colombia, to  secure her  release.  The  map  contains the route  to  a precious  stone,  which the  crooks  want now.    Again we  see  Ira  and  Ralph on  a  yatch,  with  crocodiles  for  company,  and  here  again  these two  characters  are  set up  beautifully. Ralph is the  guy   who  does  not  like the idea of  kidnapping,  and  feels  they had  enough,   while  Ira  just  wants to have this “One big last one”. 
But its not just  Ralph and Ira, looking  out  for  the map,  there is  the chief  baddie,  Zolo,  a  rogue cop, with his own private  army,  and  unlike  the  bumbling duo of  Ira and Ralph, highly  vicious and crooked.   He  was  the  guy  responsible  for  murder of  Elaine’s  husband.   And  he  deliberately  gets   Joan onto the  wrong bus, so  that  he  could  waylay her  and steal  the  map.  Unfortunately  for  Zolo, due  to  a mixup,  Joan  is  saved  by  Jack Colton( Michael Douglas), a  free wheeling  adventurer, hunting rare birds in the  Colombian jungles for money.   Jack  seems  to  be the  guy  Joan is  dreaming of,  rugged, free spirited, adventurous.  Interestingly  director  Zemeckis gives us that  visual hint where,  when  Jack comes  on to the  screen,  his  silhoutte is  almost the same which Joan  dreams of  her  hero  Jessie.
rtsAnd  as  the  cliche  goes “Opposites always  attract”.   Joan  is  the prim and proper  city  miss,  who has  never been  outside New  York,  who  gets  dizzy  riding the  elevator,  but  now  in a crazy   adventure  she only  fantasized  about  in  her  novels.   Jack  is  the  rugged,  individualist,  the  free booting,  hunter, frequenting the jungles.    And  like  any  other  love  story,  theirs   starts  off  on a not  too  pleasant  note.  In a  great  scene,  they  are  stranded  on a  lonely  mountain  road,  Jack  throws  away  her suitcase,   and  as she curses,  both  of  them  fall  down  a  mountain stream.  So  now  the  characters  are set  up,    Joan,  the  prim and proper city miss on an unlikely  adventure,  Jack,  the rugged  swashbuckling  adventurer,  Ira  and  Ralph,  the  odd couple  pair of  bumbling  crooks  and  Zolo, the  nasty   rogue  cop.  Each  has  their  own  motivation  for  the  treasure  map,   and  the emerald,  Joan  needs it to  secure the  release of  her  sister,  Jack  helps  out  Joan as  he  just wants to  get himself out  from  Colombia  with as much money as  he can,  Zolo  needs  it  for  obvious reasons,  while  Ira and  Ralph,  want to  have one  last  shot.
Make  no  mistake,   Romancing  the  Stone,  is  escapist  entertainment  with a  capital  E.   But  it  also  proves  that  to entertain  the  audience  it  is  not  necessary  to   leave  one’s  brains  behind.   The  script   for  the movie  was written by  Diane  Thomas,  a  Malibu  waitress,  and  which  impressed  Michael  Douglas  enough  to  produce  the movie  based on it.  But   it  goes  more  than  that,  even  now  to  date,  the  script  for  Romancing  the  Stone,  is  one of  the  most  discussed  and analyzed.  It  is  taken  as  a case study  and example  in  many  screen writing  courses,   and  considered one  of  the   best  written.  So  why?  Why  is a  script  essentially  escapist in nature,  so  widely  analyzed?
Trust me,  i  love  escapist  entertainment,  and  i  love nothing else than  getting  swept  away  by  the  action  on  big  screen.  Now  what  constitutes  escapist  entertainment, might  vary  from  person to person. One  of  the  foremost  factors  for  me,  when  it  comes  to  entertainment  are  the  characters.   I  need to have  characters  whom i  can  feel  and  root  for.  I  can  see ET  a hundred  times  all over,  just  because  of  Elliot  and  ET.  But  Jurassic  Park  even with  all  those   hi  tech  effects,  just  leaves  me  rather cold,  mainly  because  of  its  absolutely  flat  characterization.  For  that  matter i  liked  The  Lost  World  more,  because  i  felt  the  characterization  was more  deeper.   As  i have  discussed  here,  its  the  way  the  characters  and  their  motivations  are  set up in Romancing  the  Stone,  that  makes  it  such a  great  entertainer  for  me.   Be  it  Jack and Joan’s  love hate  relationship,   the  goofy  escapades  of  Ira and  Ralph,  or  the  nasty   Zolo,  everything  falls  into  place.  But  its  not  just  the  main  characters,   a  truly  great  entertainer  is  where even the  side  characters  stay  with you.   Sholay  was  as much  about  Soorma  Bhopali  and  Samba  and  Kaalia,  as  it  was  about  Jai or Veeru  or  Gabbar.    And  one  of  the  best  side  characters  you have in Romancing the  Stone,  is  Juan,  a  local Colombian drug smuggler.    The  scene  where  Jack  and  Joan  meet  him  to seek  his help  is  brilliantly  set up  here.    Jack  tries to  take  his help,  and  then  sarcastically asks  Joan  if  she  can  do anything.  Juan  listens to her name,   and  then he goes  gushy,  he  happens to be  a big  fan  of  her  pulpy  romance novels,  “the  great Joan Wilder”.    Watch  the  scene,   just  gonna  get  you  really  chuckling out here.
One  more  reason  why  Romancing the  Stone  entertains  you big time,  is  that  all  the  necessary  elements   for   a pulp  entertainer  are  mixed  in  the  right  amount.  So  you  have a  wonderful  romance  between    Jack  and Joan,  and  because  it  gels  along  with the  main  story,   you  dont  feel  its too obtrusive.   Comedy  of  course in  almost  every  frame,  be  it   Jack and Joan’s  escapades in the  jungle,  or  Ralph’s  bumbling  antics.  And  enough  drama, double  crossing,  escapades,  action  scenes.   For me the movie  entertained  big  time,   because  every  stage,  i had  myself  asking “What next?”,   and  when  you  feel   yourself  going  along with the  characters,  thats  where  a movie crosses from merely  good to great.
And  finally  the  actors.  No  matter  how many  eye popping  special  effects  you  cram into  the movie, no matter  how many  twists and  turns  are  there in the  story,  not matter  how breathtaking  the stunts  sans  good  characters  and  actors,  the  movie  will  always  be flat.    
Michael  Douglas    is  first rate   as  the  irascible,  roguish  adventurer,  with  his  tongue in cheek humour,  and  rakish charm.  Some how  for  me  Douglas  has always  been a  bit  of  an underrated  actor,  while  he is  more  famous  here  for  his  masala  stuff  like   The  Ghost and the Darkness  or   Basic  Instinct,  he  has  been a brilliant  performer  in  more  serious  dramatic  roles  like  Wall Street,  The  Game , The  War of  the  Roses  and  Traffic.   
No  one  who has  seen  Body  Heat,  could  ever  forget  Kathleen  Turner’s  smouldering  sex  appeal.    And  she  again  manages  to  charm   you  off  the  feet  with  her  mixture  of  charm  and  sex appeal,  trust  me during  my  growing up   years in the  80′s,  she  was one of my  dream dates,  along with Michelle  Pfeiifer.   And it  also  helps  that  both  Douglas and  Turner  share  that  kind of  chemistry,  essential   in  this  kind of  movie.    Interestingly  both  Douglas  and  Turner  later  appeared  in War of  the  Roses,  as a   bickering  couple,  whose  marriage  is falling apart.   
And that  was directed  by Danny  De Vito,  who  is  a  total  scream  in  the  movie.   Its  not  just  De Vito’s  short  build,  for  me  its  his  sense of  timing,  his  delivery,  that makes  him one of my  favorite  comic  actors.   And man,  this  guy  just  makes  you  roll over   in Romancing the  Stone,  watch  his  acting  in the  scene,  where he  finds  out  that  he  has  missed Joan,  howlarious.
Well  if  the   current  crop  of  “entertainers”   are  making  you  feel like tearing  your  hair  out,  and  you  want to be  really  entertained, go get  the  DVD  of  this,  and  watch it.  Trust me  you  are  gonna  have  a real  ball of a time.
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One Comment
  1. I like romancing stone.It has some good performances which surely attract you.I definitely suggest you to watch this movie.Its an entertaining movie which you surely like. download movies online

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