This review is written for my dear friend Aleks who alleges that Romancing the Stone is “the best film ever made.” I love you Aleks, even though you’re wrong.
Release date: March 30, 1984
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Who should watch this movie: My friend Aleks. Suburban moms in their 50s.
When should you watch this movie: Wine drunk on a Friday night when your friends bail on plans. After watching something really dark (like that show about squids.)
The sell: Released at the height of Indiana Jones craze and in an era of exciting adventure films, Romancing the Stone offers entertainment without much originality. Author and quintessential city-girl Joan Wilder is thrown head first into the Colombian jungle in hopes of liberating her sister in exchange for a treasure map. Joan is clueless but quickly proves far from helpless as she teams up with mystery man Jack and the two trek through wilderness, pursued by not one but several villains. Joan is the anchor and perhaps only redeeming aspect of this movie. Her character arc (if you can call it an arc) depicts a woman coming out of her shell to prove that she is more than capable of handling herself through one crisis after the next. (Importantly, she is proving this to herself more so than anyone else). She’s steadfast and determined, making it all the more mystifying why she falls for the negging stranger she picks up along the way. On that note, I have a bone to pick with whoever decided that Michael Douglas was fit to be a leading man. If I had to pick a single weak point for this film, besides the colonial overtones and not so veiled racism, it would be Michael Douglas’s utter lack of charisma. But back to the colonialism, this film’s portrayal of the global south is of a dirty and violent place rife with crime. And where there is not malicious intent, there is stupidity. Even Joan’s endearing strength is framed as conquering the uncivilized jungle. If Colombia wanted to sue, I’d understand. Romancing the Stone takes the adventure romance format and executes it well, balancing excitement with comedy, and including what I imagine was supposed to be chemistry between the leads. Unfortunately, it does not hold up to contemporary scrutiny. Granted, neither does Indiana Jones. Decidedly not the best movie ever made, but hey, art is subjective.