Romancing the Stone

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Romancing the Stone

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: When a romance novelist’s sister is kidnapped, the novelist finds herself flung into a dangerous, whirlwind adventure that’s fit for one of her books – including meeting a brash, handsome stranger who helps her on her quest. But can he be trusted?

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Since 2020’s summer movie season has been significantly altered (to say the least), now seems  like a great time to take a trip back to 1984 and watch one of the very best summer blockbusters of that decade in American cinema. Robert Zemeckis directed Romancing the Stone, a combination of action, adventure, and romance which hits just about every beat you could want from those genres. Two of the hottest actors from the era star in a pulpy, globe-spanning thrill ride, with their characters dashing through exotic locales with life or death stakes driving the whole thing. It rules.

Back to the Future is pretty much a perfect movie, but the year before he made that, Zemeckis was in a very different type of blockbuster mode with Romancing the Stone. It’s an expansive, sweeping story full of danger, romance, and heart – the kind of thing that should be required viewing for everyone who loves adventure films. For all the crap he (often rightfully) takes for his late-career obsession with technology, this movie is the polar opposite: a tactile, analogue film that has almost no visual effects, instead relying on its characters, gorgeous environments, and genuinely thrilling story to carry it through. Zemeckis’s direction is exquisite: the action is memorably and beautifully staged and every actor’s performance is perfectly calibrated, resulting in a wonderful balance between the contemporary and the classical.

The chemistry between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, both sweating their way through South American jungles, is off the charts, with Douglas stepping into the swaggering Han Solo archetype and Turner growing from a quiet, lonely novelist into a woman who knows what she wants and actively goes after it. So much of the reason this film works is due to its excellent script, from screenwriter Diane Thomas. Sadly, she was killed in a car accident a year after Romancing the Stone hit theaters, and while I’m gutted that we lost such a promising talent before we could see what her filmography could have grown into, I’m thankful that she gave the world this incredible piece of storytelling, which should be widely acknowledged as among the best treasure hunt movies ever made. If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourselves a favor and check it out. (If absolutely nothing else, it’s worth it for Danny DeVito‘s fun supporting role as he chases the leads across the jungle.)

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