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Film / Kate & Leopold

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Imagine your future happiness is bound by fate to one man... a man who is dashing, handsome, and chivalrous, and who would do anything in his power to make you happy.

The only problem is he lived and died over a hundred years ago.

Directed by James Mangold (who co-wrote the screenplay with Steven Rogers), Kate & Leopold is a 2001 romantic comedy about Leopold (Hugh Jackman), a 19th-century Duke who must marry to restore his family's fortune and Kate (Meg Ryan), an ambitious 21st-century businesswoman who is focused on her career.

Stuart Besser (Liev Schreiber) travels back in time from the 21st century to 1876 via a time portal to view the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and investigate Leopold's invention of the elevator. Leopold is suspicious of Stuart and pursues him resulting in an accident that brings them both back to the 21st century.

After an unfortunate mishap involving an elevator, Stuart is hospitalized leaving Leopold alone in his apartment where he meets Kate, who lives on the floor below and is Stuart's ex-girlfriend. Then Kate's brother, Charlie returns and befriends Leopold ensuring constant contact with Kate.

Naturally, there are complications. Leopold is the Duke of Albany but is too honorable a man to make up a story about his origins. In addition, since Leopold left his time before he invented the elevator, all the elevators in New York start malfunctioning. Although he knows Leopold must return home to fix the space-time continuum, Stuart's ramblings about time travel while hospitalized result in his transfer to a mental hospital.

And thus hilarity and romance ensues.

This film provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Both The Pirates of Penzance and La Bohème premiered years after Leopold's time travel, so there is no way for him to be familiar with either.
  • Badass Longcoat: Leopold. Whether in his Victorian clothes or modern clothes, he wears a very cool looking, quite long coat.
  • Book Ends: The story opens and ends during a dance party - the exact same party.
  • Butt-Monkey: Stuart falls down an elevator shaft after returning to New York, and for the next 2/3 of the film it just gets worse for him.
  • Creator Cameo: James Mangold plays an uncredited cameo as the irritated director, Richard, in one of the opening scenes.
  • Date Peepers: Going home from their own party, Charlie and Leopold decide to check out on Kate's date with J.J. - and it turns ugly very fast, culminating with Leopold calling J.J. out on taking advantage of Kate as her boss.
  • Delayed Ripple Effect: Because Leopold is transported into the future before he invents the elevator, the elevators in the 21st century begin to breakdown and become non-functional.
  • Double Entendre: "And in the future I believe men will be judged by the size of their erections!"
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Blink and you will miss it, but during the opening chase after Stuart, he bumps into Kate.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Leopold is a nobleman from 19th century Albany in 21st century America. Downplayed in that Leopold is an inventor and spends his time being amazed and curious at the progress he sees instead of being terrified and confused.
  • Flower Motifs: The Victorian practice of floriography is well known to Leopold and addressed directly when he helps Charlie pick out a bouquet for his upcoming date.
    Leopold: No, no, this will not do.
    Charlie: Wha... Why? What is wrong with this one?
    Leopold: The orange lily implies extreme hatred. The begonia and lavender danger and suspicion, respectively. Every flower has a meaning, Charles. Might I suggest the amaryllis, which declares the recipient a most splendid beauty. Or the cabbage rose.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Stuart flips through his notes to find a small snippet on Leopold, taken from some pop-science article, with a pretty long bio on him... that's displayed for a grand total of one second. In the theatrical run, it was impossible to read beyond the headline of the article.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Leopold is a nobleman who admires men of accomplishment and is working on inventing the elevator.
  • Gratuitous French: Leopold hears Kate's boss, J.J. boast that he speaks French fluently and says something in French that reveals that the man doesn't know what he's talking about. Ironically, Leopold does not speak French fluently but quoted the line directly from an opera that J.J. had just boasted about seeing a dozen times.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Stuart just couldn't keep from chuckling at all the talk of erections.
  • Horseback Heroism: Leo rides down a purse snatcher through Central Park on the back of a horse that he borrowed from a carriage ride.
  • I Am One of Those, Too: Kate's boss JJ tries to impress her with tales of a centuries-old manor in England. Too bad Leopold is from that county and knows no such manor exists. JJ also tries faking familiarity with La Bohème, claiming that it taught him French; Leopold tries speaking French with him and watches him fail to respond, then embarrasses him again by pointing out that La Boheme isn't in French. (Leopold admits that his own French isn't good, but it's good enough to spot a phony.)
  • I Gave My Word: Marriage is the promise of eternal love and, as a man of honor, Leopold wonders how he can promise eternally what he has never felt momentarily.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Leopold's family is heavily in debt, which is why his uncle pressures him to marry a rich American. He complains about it in the beginning but in the end he understands that there are some things a person just needs to do.
  • Knight in Shining Armor:
    • After a purse-snatcher takes off with Kate's purse, Leo rides him down on horseback.
      Leopold: I warn you scoundrel, I was trained at the King's Academy and schooled in weaponry by the palace guard. You stand no chance. Where you run, I shall ride, when you stop, the steel of this strap shall be lodged in your brain.
      [the thief throws down the bag and flees as onlookers applaud]
    • Leopold believes that Kate requires a chaperone on her date with her boss so he offers to go with her to protect her from his obvious intentions. When she refuses he tells her boss, "Some feel that to court a woman in one's employ is nothing more than a serpentine effort to transform a lady to a whore."
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    Film director: [played by the director of this movie] Excuse me. You've never made a mistake in your life? You have no flaws? You've never slept with the wrong guy?
    Kate: I'm not the protagonist in a major motion picture.
    • And then Kate has a discussion with her assistant, about test audiences, crass, over-calculated movies, typecasting and appealing to the lowest common denominator. As played by by Meg Ryan, who at this point was famously fed up with being typecasted into the exact same role over and over again.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Leopold. Being portrayed by Hugh Jackman will do that to you. This is even invoked in-universe, as his presence alone is enough to draw interest from the test audience of the commercial Kate is working.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Downplayed. Charlie is clearly against J.J., but more on a playful mischief level than anything else. Also, his beef is with Kate's boss specifically, rather than any other men - he didn't mind Stuart and he has nothing against Leopold, either.
  • Name and Name: He's Leopold and she's Kate and together their names make the title.
  • Old-School Chivalry: The nobleman from 1876, who is accustomed to stand when a lady leaves the table, is often mocked for things like his idea of the culinary arts, but he does become more modern and learns that obligation will trump integrity. He also woos Kate with a moonlight dinner and dancing on the roof, breakfast the next morning, etc.
  • Overly Long Name: Our protagonist, the 3rd Duke of Albany is so christened: Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Thomas Gareth Mountbatten.
  • Paranormal Romance: A romance involving time travel.
  • Prince Charming: Leopold, 3rd Duke of Albany, writes the best apology letter in the history of mankind.
  • Race for Your Love: In order to reunite with Leopold, Kate has 23 minutes to reach the Brooklyn Bridge. Of course, NY traffic is clogged forcing her to run on foot and then there's the girder over traffic she has to walk across in heels.
  • Rebel Prince: Leopold says to his uncle that he is no duke because the new royals are men of accomplishment.
  • Re-Cut: The theatrical release cut in the last moment before the premiere a handful of scenes that were restored in the director's cut. Probably the most striking is the short Creator Cameo by James Mangold that was added back and how much longer the opening sequence is in the recut version.
  • Red String of Fate: In order to fix the space-time continuum, Kate has to go back to be with Leopold. The director's cut of the movie reinforces this because Stuart is the great-great grandson of Leopold and won't be born if Kate doesn't go back.
  • Romantic Wingman: Leopold and Charlie quickly befriend. During one of their escapades Leopold helps to first salvage a Bad Date Patrice, Charlie's fling, was obviously suffering from, and then tutors Charlie how to behave, clear his act and even what flowers should he pick.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Kate says that Leopold's handsome, honest, courteous. Stands when you walk in a room. Brings you brioche in bed. She realizes that he is someone who came along who knew exactly what she wanted without asking.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Leopold openly accuses J.J. of taking advantage of Kate as her boss and while they aren't sleeping with each other yet, it was clearly heading in that direction.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Kate is viciously bitter and cynical, often lashing out at people at the faintest of prompts, but she's just incredibly lonely and after an entire string of failed relationships and being looked down at work, too.
  • Surprise Incest: The original cut of the movie created an unfortunate relationship between some of the characters. Stuart was actually Leopold's descendant which means that Kate is his great-great grandmother and he was in a long-term relationship with her in the present for over two years. This situation was removed for the theatrical release but is still present in the director's cut.
  • Tastes Like Feet: Leopold claims that the butter he's supposed to advertise tastes like saddle soap and raw suet.
  • Time-Travel Romance: A romantic comedy with the leads from different centuries.
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble: Stuart has a hard time explaining things.
  • Trope Breaker: Stuart has a film with photos that can prove he's saying the truth, it just has to be developed first. Just a few years after the premiere, the plot point would be completely obsolete with the advent of digital photography.
  • White Stallion: That horse that Duke Leopold borrowed from a carriage ride just so happened to be white.
  • Writer on Board: Both James Mangold and Meg Ryan loath the test-audience screenings. The film mocks and criticises the concept relentlessly, but those scenes don't really serve any point for the story, as everything else already established Kate as deeply cynical.
  • Your Universe or Mine?: Kate and Leopold are split between centuries. However, because of the way the narrative unfolds, there is only one choice for how they can be together.