Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Romancing the Stone

When her sister (Mary Ellen Trainor) gets into trouble, reclusive romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) finds herself on the way to Colombia with a treasure map unaware of the adventure or dangers ahead in this fish-out-of-water tale that is as entertaining today as it was nearly 40 years ago. Trailed by the dangerous Deputy Commander of Colombia's secret police (Manuel Ojeda), Joan's life is saved in the middle of the jungle by a man straight out of one of her romance novels (even if she doesn't recognize him at first).

Despite his complaining and gruff exterior, Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas) agrees to help the romance novelist in far over her head get to Cartagena in order to trade the map to her sister's kidnapper (Zack Norman). However, along the way sparks fly between the pair and Jack convinces Joan to go in search of the treasure themselves despite being pursued by both the Columbian secret police and the kidnapper's cousin (Danny DeVito) all of whom want the map.

Despite the studio having no faith in the film, Romancing the Stone was a critical and box office success becoming the sixth-highest grossing movie of 1984 and giving director Robert Zemeckis the cachet needed to pursue his next project: Back to the Future. Despite falling for Jack, Joan can never quite trust him completely, especially given his interest in the map as Zemeckis balances comedy, adventure, and a romantic comedy all at the same time for glorious results.

There are great moments throughout the film including the opening scene of Joan's latest book narrated by the author starring Kymberly Herrin as her heroine and William H. Burton Jr. as her hero Jessie always slightly in shadow. Through this, the quiet night she spends with her cat, and a single scene with her editor (Holland Taylor), we get a feel for who Joan is. The opening sequence also provides a comedic dichotomy when Joan finds herself in in the kinds of situations she only ever written about. The jungle also gives us the mudslide, the snake scene, several sequences of the pair running from pursuit, and the search for the treasure. We also get Alfonso Arau as a Colombian drug dealer who is a huge fan of Joan Wilder's books and helps the pair through one small stretch of the film.

While various films such as The Lost City, Argyle, and Romancing the Stone's own disappointing sequel, have attempted similar stories over the years none has ever captured its magic. The pairing of Douglas and Turner works wonderfully and I can't even picture what this film would have looked like if the producers had landed their first choice of Sylvester Stallone. Both DeVito and are delightfully sleezy in distinctly different ways, and Ojeda provides a menacing presence constantly on the pair's trail. The ending action sequence plays on several ideas and themes set up over the course of the story with an epilogue hitting the sweet spot for the romance as well.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Romancing the Stone
  • IMDb: link

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