In every generation, a movie comes along that develops a cult following. The Princess Bride was that movie, during my freshman year of college.
The thing that I've always felt made me a little weird is that I didn't identify with Buttercup- I thought she was incredibly shallow, although she made some progress toward being a better person by the end of both the book and the movie. I identified with Westley- because I was all too familiar with the kind of rejection he endured at Buttercup's hands. I liked him as Dread Pirate Roberts, too, because it showed that he was capable of accomplishing far more than anyone who knew him as a child would ever credit him.
I was also painfully embarrassed (and still am) when I first saw the movie because two things that Westley/DPR did cut a little too close to the truth: he pined after someone who refused to see his worth, so he worked hard to become something more acceptable to her. As I sat in the dark with my friends taking this in, I flashed back to the times I quietly followed Hopkins around waiting to be noticed, craving his approval. After his admonition that I move on with my life because he wasn't coming back to Smalltownland, I did as Westley did: I set out to become someone and something that would command Hopkins' respect.
Somewhere along the way, though, both Westley and I missed a certain point- that you shouldn't let your life evolve OR revolve around someone else's opinion of you. I struggle with the idea that I really shouldn't care what people think of me, especially Hopkins. I have this whole life and identity that I've built that didn't involve him because he walked away from me- there are all these other people in my life who have been there, who do think well of me. I eventually earned my father's respect, which I never expected.
There's a restored 1940s movie house near Smalltownland that's showing The Princess Bride this weekend. There are so many elements in the film other than the love story that make it very much worth seeing over and over again; Mandy Patinkin's Inigo Montoya is probably one of my favorite movie characters ever, although I am also a big fan of character actor/playwright Wallace Shawn. It's one of my favorite movies, despite my discomfort with parts of it.
It's been a rough week, and it's not over yet; I don't know whether I'm going to go see it or not. Sometimes you get the slightly cockeyed fairytale ending; sometimes you just get reality. The latter is probably the better bet, since the disappointments are easier to manage and the little victories actually amount to something.