Re-Watch: The Princess Diaries (2001)

The Princess Diaries
Director: Garry Marshall
Writer: Gina Wendkos
Based on: Meg Cabot‘s novel of the same name
Cast: Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore, Caroline Goodall, Robert Schwartzman
Seen on: 19.10.2019

Mia (Anne Hathaway) lives with her single mother Helen (Caroline Goodall), never having known her father. When she learns that her father was actually the Prince of Genovia and her grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) wants to prepare her for her eventual ascension to the throne, Mia’s life is completely turned upside down. Becoming a princess isn’t easy, especially when you’re still in high school.

Maybe it was an aftereffect of watching the Downton Abbey movie with all its monarchism, but I wanted to watch this film again. And while it isn’t as good as I remembered it, it is quite nice.

The film poster showing Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews), all class, and Mia (Anne Hathaway) wearing sunglasses and headphones.

Compared to Downton, the monarchism here is quite dialed down, and so I could deal with it. I guess, a measure of it is to be expected in a Princess movie. But I thought it was interestig that there were a couple of moments where it seemed pretty obvious that the people who thought up Genovia and its monarchy don’t actually understand (or have opted to ignore) how monarchies actually work. Otherwise we would have never gotten a scene where the Queen dances with her head of security Joe (Hector Elizondo) at the most important ball.

Anyhow, the entire film is shaped by the contortions it has to go through to marry a liberal-progressive worldview to this nostalgic and glorified version of being a princess. This becomes never more apparent than in the character of Lilly (Heather Matarazzo), Mia’s best friend. Politically outspoken and critical of “the system” she pushes Mia into being a princess, in the hope that with the power this brings, Mia can actually change things. It made me cringe a little.

Mia (Anne Hathaway) in school.

Anyhow, Hathaway and Andrews are the real draws of the film, and this part still worked wonderfully for me. They are both great, and really fantastic together. But the rest of the film just didn’t live up to my rather fond memory of it: the love interest has no personality, the mean girls are incredibly tropey, and I already talked about the politics of it.

I’m sorry that this film didn’t work better for me anymore. It’s still very watchable and makes time pass nicely, but I probably wont be revisiting it anymore.

Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) and Mia (Anne Hathaway) at a ball.

Summarizing: it’s okay.

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