We are going to talk about one of my favorite movies today. When I find a movie I really enjoy, I often wind up watching it obsessively. Over and over. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse. Because I miss out on a lot of other good quality entertainment by zeroing in on just one thing. At the same time, though, it enables me to pick up on little details I otherwise would have missed.
For example, The Parent Trap. I absolutely love the 1998 remake. It’s the right way to update an old classic. I thought I had already talked about all the reasons why I love this movie. But there’s something wonderful I had totally missed in it until recently.
Nick’s Most Important Word
There’s something very interesting about the journey of Nick Parker and Elizabeth James through the course of this film. Of course, there’s the obvious point that they fell in love on a cruise ship, had twins, got divorced, and each took one child to live with them until their girls met at a summer camp and schemed to get them back together. That’s the basic plot of the movie. But the thing I love is how it all goes down. And it begins with a single word.
What is that word? We.
During their car ride home to their vineyard home in Napa, Nick and Annie (who’s pretending to be her twin Hallie) have a delightful conversation. Thanks to some clever misdirection, you might think that the most significant word in it is “Dad.” They dwell on that word so much that it becomes almost comical.
But think about how the conversation begins. That’s where the most important thing happens. Nick sarcastically thanks Annie for all the letters she sent on the stationery he specifically bought for her. She starts to apologize by saying, “We meant to write, Dad, but we just…” But he cuts her off with “‘We?’” confused by her repetitive use of that word. In this case, she’s referring to her twin sister who she met at camp.
Nick’s Second Encounter with the Word
Later, after the girls manage to maneuver their parents into meeting at a hotel in San Francisco, the truth finally spills out, and both parents realize their daughters switched places after camp. Once they’re all reunited, they celebrate with a romantic dinner on a luxury boat in the harbor. All is not as it should be, though, because the parents are reluctant to revisit their latent feelings for each other.
During Nick and Elizabeth’s conversation over dinner, Nick notes that it’s impractical for them to share their daughters or to keep them apart. So they’re in a real conundrum now that they’ve met. “That’s why we came up with the solution that we have,” he says. Elizabeth responds with this gut punch: “Really? I thought it was because we decided never to see each other again.”
Now it’s Nick’s turn to be the one to clarify who the “we” is in her statement. He says, “Not ‘we,’ Liz.” That strongly implies that it was she who never wanted to see him again, not the other way around. It must have broken his heart, even more than his head, when she threw angry words and a hairdryer at him and then left for England with one of their newborn children. But it broke her heart, too, when he didn’t come after her.
The Final Use of the Word
At the end of the film, when Elizabeth and Annie return to their home in London, it’s a somber affair. They feel like they’ve failed and are now doomed to loneliness. That is until Elizabeth goes to her father’s study to greet him. Instead, she finds Hallie. Elizabeth and Annie are dumbfounded as Hallie explains the Concorde is twice as fast as a regular 747 jet, and she also notes, “It took us around 30 seconds after you guys left for us to realize we didn’t want to lose you two again.”
Now it’s Elizabeth’s turn to be perplexed by Hallie’s use of that word. In wonder, she asks, “‘We?’” And then, like a knight in shining armor, Nick appears from out of nowhere and says, “We,” confirming everything that word implies. He came with Hallie to right the wrong of the past. In a cosmic twist of fate, he and Hallie refused to give up on their beloved family members.
With one simple word, Nick speaks more eloquently of his love for Elizabeth than a whole sonnet or a hundred professions of “I love you.” He’s not willing to give her up anymore.
Over the course of the film, the word “we” went from referring to Annie and Hallie’s newfound sisterly love to Nick and Elizabeth’s lost marital love to Nick and Hallie’s undying love for Elizabeth and Annie. The two sisters have successfully rekindled their parents’ affections for each other by reminding them that “we” want to be a family again. That’s why, as Nick and Elizabeth passionately kiss (and all their past troubles are forgiven), Hallie excitedly cries, “We actually did it!”
One More Note
Not only is “we” a perfect summation of Nick’s love for Elizabeth, but it also works on another level. Because does Nick know that both Elizabeth and Annie speak French? Oui.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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If you’d like to support the Deja Reviewer, please consider donating a few dollars to keep this site going strong. I’ll even send you an original joke if you do! Try it, and prepare to enjoy a good chuckle.