March 29, 2017 by Julia
I keep having this random, repeated thought: Mandy Patinkin is a national treasure. The other day we showed the kids The Princess Bride, which they surprisingly loved! It’s one of my favorite movies, and it may be a little sexist, with the stunningly beautiful but helpless Princess Buttercup (seriously, how many times does she have to saved?), but otherwise the movie holds up perfectly.
You never know how well classics will translate to the younger generation, but this one did. It’s chock-full of favorite moments and lines: funny, thrilling, beautiful, romantic – an enjoyable story in every sense. (Except the feminist one, but I forgive them for that – being saved by a handsome true love IS fun to watch, just next time let the girl do a little saving, too, eh?)
And when it gets over-the-top, as it often does, on purpose, we have a young Fred Savage (he’ll always be young to my generation) and his Grandpa (a classic Grandpa if there ever was one), Peter Falk, to bring it back down to earth for us. I noticed this time how cluttered and packed with stuff Fred Savage’s room is, and I loved the set design for that. It brought me back, looking at old Cheetos bags. This is what kids’ rooms look like when they start gathering their own stuff, and claiming the space as their own – unless they have personal maids. And they should not have personal maids. So whenever the kissing scenes got too perfect, Fred Savage would get squeamish at the exact same moment my five-year-old son started to protest. At the scary or upsetting parts, we’d pause for a little Grandpa reassurance, too – just when my five-year-old and nine-year-old were needing it.
Anyway, back to Mandy Patinkin. He always has this twinkle in his eye. After we watched him sword-fighting and word-playing with panache, leading up to the best scene of vengeance ever, Dennis and I watched him in Homeland later on that night, after the kids were in bed. He looks like a completely different person in present day, thirty years after The Princess Bride, graying and bespectacled – but he’s still got the twinkle. How can he convey such gravitas and inner joy at the same time? He is like Carrie’s anchor, her mentor and peer and father all at once. He is a grizzly bear of mistakes and wisdom, wrestling with his life’s work and how it took over his life, caring always, but never sentimental. He is Santa for adults, but you better have been good. Watching him back-to-back, the performances thirty years apart, made me grateful for him as an actor. He was also the best thing about Yentl , a surprisingly poignant movie I loved as a teen, despite the cheesiness and soft focus, which I can’t quite tolerate now. And it is my understanding that he delivered the definitive stage performance of Georges Seurat in Sunday in the Park With George. I’m sure there are more performances I am unaware of.
Somebody give this man a medal, or a trophy, or a something-or-other of honor. He is a national treasure.