Don’t be fooled by The Prince & Me‘s questionable marketing campaign, which seemingly promises a shrill Mona Lisa Smile-sized fantasy for tween girls who don’t believe in Santa Claus but nonetheless think their prince may come. In Manitowoc, Wisconsin, future doctor Paige Morgan (Julia Stiles) races to make a 10 o’clock appointment. In Copenhagen, Denmark, the country’s perpetually horny prince, Edvard (Luke Mably), races a friend across the countryside to the supreme delight of local paparazzi. From the start, director Martha Coolidge playfully implies their inevitable meet-cute—just as the hazardous montage of speeding vehicles coyly suggests that Paige and “Eddie” may just collide despite being a continent and an ocean apart, sparks also fly during chemistry class and deconstructions of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In Prince & Me, fate will not be ignored and it asks its characters to look beneath economic, cultural, political, and even genre surfaces. This surprisingly intelligent dramedy is largely hung-up on facades and critical of the misogynistic fairy tales promised to young girls. Just as Eddie tweaks a lawnmower-cum-racecar for Paige’s brothers during the Thanksgiving holiday, the filmmakers happily tweak the Cinderella fantasy. Eddie comes to Wisconsin expecting a live-action spectacle of Girls Gone Wild; instead, the undercover prince falls in love with a girl who unsuspectingly tames his lascivious heart. Intimidating, sarcastic, and unwilling to admit defeat, Paige is hellbent on a career in medicine, but when presented with the kind of “corny schoolgirl fantasy” that happens only in Shakespeare (or to Grace Kelly), she must decide whether submitting to this lifestyle also means betraying her womanhood. The film ends a little too tidy, but it’s full of surprises. The chemistry between Mably and Stiles is remarkable—not only does the score by Jennie Muskett and Matt Dunkley never gets in the way of it, Coolidge uses the couple’s sizzling fusion to melt Paige’s moral trepidation and everyone’s sense of social propriety. The director’s framing is also rather witty. Because Coolidge looks at the intimate doorway into Paige’s farm in the same way she does the entrance into Eddie’s palace, she reinforces the need to keep her charmed characters on the same level playing field.
- Martha Coolidge
- Jack Amiel, Michael Begler, Katherine Fugate
- Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, Ben Miller, James Fox, Miranda Richardson, Joanne Baron, Eddie Irvine, Zachary Knighton, James McGowan
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