Kate and Leopold holds a special place in my heart. It’s a unique love story that’s well written, with a great cast of actors right down to the doorman, who only has one line. Director James Manigold (director of 3:10 to Yuma) is one of those rare directors who respects the art of filmmaking and doesn’t take any of the people working for him for granted.
Just a brief summary: Hugh Jackman (AKA: Wolverine) plays Leopold, a 19th century ex-duke, dreamer and inventor, who is being forced to get married in the States so that he can use his wealthy bride-to-be’s money to clear away some old family debts. His melancholy is broken when a time traveler by the name of Stuart, played by the deliciously talented Live Schriber (AKA: The Good Sabertooth) leads him on a chase through the fabric of time into 21st century Manhattan.
Stuart winds up in the hospital, and because he can’t keep his mouth shut without the burden of proof to back him up, he’s quickly committed to the psych ward. This is pretty much an excuse to get Leopold to show up on the radar of Stuart’s ex-girlfriend, Kate, played by Meg Ryan (Not an X-men character which is too bad, because she could totally pull off that frosty chick with the diamond skin.) who happens to live in the apartment right below his.
To make a long story short, Leopold eventually goes back to his own time, followed by Kate. And well, depending on which version of the film you watch, the lovely couple may or may not go on to become Stuart’s great-great-great grandparents. I prefer the director’s cut over the theatrical version, so it doesn’t bother me either way.
So, whatever version of the film you put your butter on, one thing we can assume is that Kate and Leopold lived happily ever after, fair enough? Okay, moving on. There are still five major problems that Kate left behind in her bid to live a happier life in a time when she wasn’t legally allowed to vote.
1: NYPD thinks Kate committed suicide.
There is no time machine here. Stuart, the unemployed scientist and ex-boyfriend of Kate McKay, has discovered that the only way to travel through time is by jumping off a really high point to achieve the velocity needed to break the time barrier. This high point happens to be Brooklyn Bridge, post 9/11, which means the police are going to be a little wary of people climbing to girders at the top of the scaffolding.
Before Kate can say, “Great Scott, this is Heavy,” New York’s finest shows up, curious as to what all the commotion is about on a part of the bridge that is not open to tourists at any time of the day, much less five minutes to midnight. The officer, seeing Kate scale a girder to the edge of the bridge, rightly assumes the worse and tries to talk her back, with Stuart and Kate’s brother Charlie trying to assure the officer that everything is all right.
When the camera shows us the girder again, we see that Kate has in deed made the leap. The officer is quick to act and begins advising the rest of NYPD that there has been a jumper. At this point we naturally cut to the 19th century and watch Kate make a mad dash to The Beast’s party before he declares his intent to marry the Buck-toothed Beauty.
But What About...
Time didn’t just stop the moment Kate went back. There is still an NYPD officer calling for dive teams, patrol boats, and other backup to try to find the crazy lady who apparently took a dive. She was in a fancy dress, given that she basically blew a formal dinner to be here, so naturally they’re going to at least assume alcohol was involved somehow.
That’s going to lead to questioning Stuart and Charlie, who were there at the scene. Now, Charlie is an aspiring actor and a quick thinker, as we see earlier in the film. Before any of the back up arrives, he and Stuart can work out a quick scenario that actually has them trying to talk his suicidal sister down. They could explain their trying to reassure the officer by just saying, “Well, we didn’t want you to startle her,” and maybe that takes the suspicion off of them just a tad.
However, by that time there would have been a media circus all over the Brooklyn Bridge. Because news stations monitor police scanners, and a pretty white lady leaving a once in a lifetime job offer behind to go jumping off a bridge tends to be newsworthy in New York. And as Stuart and Charlie will likely be in protective custody at this time (Remember, that part of the bridge is off limits to civilians and this film is set just a short time after 9/11) it will have undoubtedly come to the attention of the police department that Stuart has escaped from Bellevue that very afternoon.
This brings me to the second loose plot thread.
2: Gretchen's Gonna Get Fiiiiiiired.
In the beginning of the film, Stuart is overjoyed that he has not only discovered time travel but that Leopold, an historically eccentric inventor and therefore a kind of soul mate of Stuart’s (or great-great-great grandfather, if you watch the director’s cut) has come back with him. He also has a digital camera full of photos he took while he was walking through 19th century New York, which would undoubtedly prove that he had in fact traveled through time.
Unfortunately, as he’s rushing out of his apartment to develop the pictures (and so his dog can take a dump. Sorry, wouldn’t want the critics to flay me alive for missing the “important” details) he falls down an elevator shaft and brakes his leg and arm. Since he can’t get anyone to develop the pictures for him, all he has is his bumbling incompetence as he tries to convince everyone who will listen to him that he has discovered time travel. And that if he doesn’t get Leopold back to his own time, he will never have invented the elevator and the world would...well, have to take the stairs I guess.
The on call psychiatrist quickly declares Stuart a danger to himself and Stuart’s forced to sit tight in the psychiatric ward. While there, Stuart charms the panties off of Gretchen, the psychiatric nurse, with an epic movie speech. Moved by his way with words and the fact that Live Scriber looks good in a hospital Johnny, we then see Stuart bolting from the hospital campus a short time later. We can only assume Gretchen got a little bit of sex out of the deal as her assistance was off camera.
So, Stuart gets his pictures developed. He discovers Kate in said pictures and realizes she is supposed to go back in time to marry Leopold. And we know the story from there. Happy ending, Sting sings, movie over.
But What About...
I’ve been to the psych ward before. Yes as a patient. No, not for the reasons you might think. This isn’t about me okay.
The point is there are rules. If you do wind up getting brought into a mental hospital, or a psych ward, and you are coherent enough to communicate with the doctors, you will be given the option of voluntarily committing yourself. They then have a set amount of time to prove that you are a danger to yourself before they have to let you go. The law is different everywhere, but the max amount of time to hold a voluntary patient is up to ten days. Depends on where you are.
From what we see in the movie however, it is safe to assume that Stuart is not a voluntary patient and that either way the doctor has reason to believe he is a danger to himself. Not only is he so caught up in this idea of time travel that he can’t notice life threatening obstacles right in front of him, but Stuart nearly kills a patient trying to get to the phone. He then has to be sedated by the night nurse for making a racket after said incident. And he basically trips and falls on his own feet right in the doctor’s office, so, yeah, photographs or not, it looks like Stuart would have been spending the full ten days with prot and Santa Clause as his roommates.
At that point, only Stuart’s primary clinical psychiatrist and the chief of psychiatry at the hospital would have been allowed to release him. And Gretchen, the nurse we can safely assume helped Stuart escape, was none of these things.
So, not only is a potentially dangerous and psychotic patient now loose on Manhattan, Gretchen is clearly the one responsible. They would have to go through security, pass hallways monitored by cameras, and Gretchen would have needed some kind of clearance for Stuart to get his clothes back. It’s safe to say that she broke a few rules.
Gee, I sure hope Stuart doesn’t become involved in the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend later in the-oh, crap, that was him up on the Brooklyn Bridge? Gretchen’s going to have a whole ten minutes to explain herself before her nursing license gets yanked and she gets blackballed from working in any healthcare related job that doesn’t involve scrubbing bedpans. And that’s just if the hospital doesn’t take some legal action against her for endangering the welfare of a patient.
Don’t worry though, Gretchen. I’d go to jail for a piece of Live Schriber too.
3: Almost Everyone At that Banquet got the Shaft
Kate works for a market research company that is about to merge with a product manufacturer. As such, she has been working her ass off for the promotion that would make her a vice president of the company once her womanizer of a boss moves on up. Her secretary, Marcie, is also looking to benefit from this since she’ll be riding the promotional train to Cushyville as Kate’s right-hand woman.
So Kate lands the promotion when she convinces Leopold to appear in a commercial for creamery butter. And on the night she goes back in time, she was supposed to deliver a speech to a banquet full of executive officers and other co-workers who didn’t lose their jobs in the merger. That’s when Stuart (who has been on the lamb from the mental hospital about six hours by this time, making you wonder just how overpaid the security staff at Bellevue were at this time) and Charlie show up and Kate sees the picture of herself at Leopold’s party. (Which, incidentally is in the exact same building where the banquet is being held)
Convinced that Leopold is the one she loves, Kate flees the banquet hall and follows Stuart and Charlie on mad dash to the Brooklyn Bridge and eventually winds up dancing in the arms of her man.
But What About...
So, Kate just runs out of the banquet. And in a very short amount of time, she’s reported as having committed suicide shortly after making contact with her ex-boyfriend, who was seen at the banquet after having escaped from the psych ward. While all of that drama plays out, there’s going to be a ton of confusion at the company the next day.
Now, in all likelihood, this may not be such a big deal. JJ, Kate’s former boss, doesn’t have to worry that somewhere down the line she’s going to sue his ass for making sexual advances on her. So while his departure to London may be delayed a few days, the only thing he has to worry about is who else is qualified to take the position Kate was going to get.
Still, now the company is going to be under a lot of scrutiny. Kate’s apparent suicide will be big news by the next morning and writers at the New York Post are especially skilled at making mountains out of molehills. What will appear to be a psychotic breakdown that has nothing to do with the company itself, it will undoubtedly turn into: Market Research Company Hires Total Whack Job!
Advertisers will back out, due to the resulting publicity this will cause and find other market research companies to do business with. And with a dark cloud moving slowly over the nation’s economy, even more people will probably lose their jobs. This, of course, means that Marcie, Kate’s secretary, will most likely be cut loose as no one else will be too tolerant of a secretary who just has to finish her romance novel before answering to her boss.
Charlie Sheen is going to have a better chance of getting another legitimate acting job.
And while we’re on the subject of people who are basically screwed now…
4: Where's Charlie Going to Live?
Kate’s brother, played by Breckin Meyer apparently lives in the spare bedroom. On his entry, we learn that Charlie is also an aspiring actor who has just arrived from “actor’s camp” and doesn’t have any major projects in the works. He’s also unemployed in any other productive sense.
At the end of the movie, on top of the Brooklyn Bridge, before leaping back throughtime, Kate rightly asks, “But what about you?”
Charlie gallantly declares that he’ll be fine. After all, he’s been the moocher brother all these years and now it’s time for big sister to finally be happy. And thus Charlie is left in the same pickle that Stuart is in. Only at least Charlie doesn’t have a straight jacket with his name on it, or a steadily growing mob of unemployed market researchers who will be burning effigies of him in a barrel to keep warm.
Hey, Charlie, whatever happened to that really cool guy you brought by that night?
But What About...
As stated, Charlie is unemployed. And even he could get a job in a short amount of time, there’s no way he’s qualified to get the kind of job that would pay the rent for a luxurious high rise apartment in downtown Manhattan. At this point he’ll be lucky if he can afford an extended stay in a roach motel in the middle of Harlem.
And his career as an actor is basically screwed, because once again, he is now going to be associated with two major nutcases, one of whom just committed suicide. No major producer is going to want Charlie’s name on the marquee, so he can basically kiss Broadway goodbye.
On the other hand, maybe things will workout for Charlie. Stuart is unemployed also, but since his breakup with Kate, he clearly has some sort of income to pay for his own place. And he’s going to need someone to watch his dog while he’s playing checkers with Jeff Bridges in the higher security ward of whatever hospital he winds up being shipped to.
Oh, we keep coming back to Stuart don’t we. You want to know why? Because he’s a major player in all of this. And next to the suicide of his ex-girlfriend, Stuart is now also going to have to answer this interesting query.
5: Where Did Leopold Go?
So, while Stuart is in the hospital, Leopold gets a good look at early 21st century Manhattan. In his short stay in our century quite a few things manage to take place.
1: He becomes the substitute baby-sitter for little Hector, and teaches Stuart’s dog a to be better behaved.
2: He offers timeless advice, which teaches Charlie to be a better man and to win over ladies with sincerity and charm.
3: Oh…and he nails an audition for a commercial that will appear on national television.
But as soon as Stuart busts free of the psych ward, his first act is to get Leopold back to the Brooklyn Bridge (Just how weak is security around major landmarks after 9/11?) to ship him back to the late 1800’s.
But What About...
After the audition, when the butter guys decided that Leopold was a shoo-in for as their spokes model Leopold no doubt had to sign a few things, like tax forms, liability waivers and whatever sorts of things an actor has to sign when landing a role.
The point is that not only do a number of people (namely a lot of single women who will be fantasizing about him in bed) know Leopold by name and have spoken with him personally, he is also going to be well known for that commercial.
We still cling to advertising icons. Most of us remember Curly Sue from the Pepsi commercials. And the Geico Cavemen, the Free Credit Report.com band, and even Flo from Progressive are all major parts of our culture that will one day be discussed on a Do You Remember that Decade? Cause seriously, the Rest of us were Too High to Pay Attention VH1 Special. And in the alternate universe of Kate and Leopold, Leopold would no doubt garner a ten second spot on such a show.
So you can bet that even though Leopold had a spastic fit over the fact that the margarine tasted like crap, his commercial is still going on the air. Because he is the only person that will benefit from the “Associated with Psychos” aura that will follow him on Internet Forums for years to come as people wonder what the hell happened to him?
Then just look at all the people outside of the market research company (including Meg’s secretary, Marcie and JJ, her boss) who have met Leopold. Several people are introduced to him as “Stuart’s friend”. The building manager who called the ambulance when Stuart had his accident recognizes Leopold and tells him what hospital Stuart is being brought to. Hector, a little boy that often spends time with Stuart when his mom is working, had a very positive and impressionable experience as Leopold taught him the Modern Major General song from Pirates of Penzance. Charlie’s friends have met Leopold and were entranced by him as he recounted his visit to the basement of Louvre.
So a lot of people know about Leopold and will undoubtedly miss him when they realize that he has disappeared. Or, did he disappear? Lets look at it the pattern of events from the point of view of a NYPD detective, shall we?
This guy Leopold shows up, a good friend of the suspect. Stuart lands in the hospital and while he’s there, Leopold falls in love with Kate, the ex-girlfriend of the suspect. After being declared a danger to himself by a staff psychiatrist, the suspect then manipulates a softhearted nurse into letting him escape. Shortly after he escapes, Leopold, who is well liked by a number of people, goes missing and Kate, the suspect’s ex, apparently commits suicide.
Even if Stuart and Charlie are not found to be responsible for Kate’s actions, that doesn’t explain what happened to Leopold. And if anything, now the situation has changed. Because the really cool guy that was romancing Stuart's ex, is now missing. And now that a potential murder charge has been brought up, suddenly it looks as though poor Kate was being coerced into jumping off the bridge. And if Stuart cranks out his line about “Jumping from a bridge to travel through time”, what do you think the police will assume? For the record, it won’t be, “My lord, this man is a genius! Lets give him the Nobel Prize!”
Oh and let me get this one counter-argument out of the way, because I know someone will mention it. The photos aren’t going to prove squat. The film takes place in the 21st century and any expert that the DA calls to the stand will likely testify that the photo was doctored somehow, or that the pictures taken were of some kind of movie set. (Ironic, no?)
At that point, I’ll kind of hope Stuart winds up back in the mental hospital. Because I doubt his “dogs are colorblind” speech will impress the guards at Riker’s Island.
Dude on May 04, 2020:
Good points, but I have to disagree with the last one. Leopold may have been a great fit for the margarine ad, but we see later in the movie (I think the scene where Stuart returns from the clinic) that the margarine ad is done by a different actor, so since Leo threw a fit and left, he's obviously been canned.
Could it be that Kate off'd herself because Leo "left country" and didn't take her with him? He is missing after all. The cops will ask Stuart and Charlie, and they'll probably say that he "left for home", which is technically true. Since they already know no one's gonna believe the time-travel phenomenon, they'll just take the path of least resistance, so to speak. But yeah, Stuart will still get brought back to the clinic and Gretchen will get the boot. As to people not wanting to associate with Charlie or JJ's company, I don't think so. People kill themselves all the time, so it wouldn't be a big deal. In fact, it might even be a boon for Charlie since someone might take pity on him, and he is in an artistic profession.
Sev on June 07, 2017:
Don't forget about the voicemail Kate leaves for Leopold on Stuart's phone! From the NYPD POV it adds to his motive.
Toby Simon from Kansas City, Missouri on April 20, 2011:
Wow I've seen that movie years back & up to now, it still gets me! James Manigold gave justice to his movie. Thumbs up!
NateSean (author) from Salem, MA on April 15, 2011:
Yeah, I know, it's a bit over analytical. But if it weren't for people like me keeping writers on their toes, we wouldn't keep getting good stuff like this.
I actually love Kate and Leopold. I like the director's cut even better and I especially love the commentary by James Manigold in response to some the stupider accusations, like the "Kate slept with her great-great-great grandson" nonsense.
Thanks for the review and the vote. ;)
Steven Daniels on April 14, 2011:
Pretty funny hub, and you bring up a lot of good logical points about this film as well. Although to be fair, when it comes to modern romantic comedies, you really can't expect much realism and/or plausibility from it. From what I've learned from certain genre of films, you have to be willing to let some degree of reality slide to enjoy it.
Take the "Star Trek" series for instance, we both know there's no way in hell that our society would suddenly go from various economic systems, to a society where money is no longer necessary because of an alien influence. Yes, in Star Trek, everyone in the future doesn't get paid anything, and everything on Earth is free. You work at a job because that's what you want to do, and you don't pay for anything. Sure, there's that gold press latinum bs that's used for intergalactic trading with other species, but on Earth, everything is free, and you don't get paid anything. Now...you and I both know a system like that would never work, and in all likely hood it's never going to happen. However, since it's a science fiction film, we tend to suspend our dis-beliefs to buy into the story easily.
Same thing for musicals. We both know nobody in real life is going to burst into songs randomly, and anyone that did would be looked as being insane to some degree. Seriously, when have you ever seen a guy in real life pointing at a random rock and saying, "There's a rock..now i have to siiiiinnng!!!" No, we buy into it because we know musicals are a way that the characters express how they emotionally feel during various parts of the film, so we suspend our dis-beliefs again to enjoy the story.
What does all this have to do with "Kate and Leopold?" Well a lot actually, as it's fairly obvious the film was not made to win any type of Academy Awards, nor was it meant to be a cash cow over hyped film like Lucas' last few "Star Wars" movies. No, from what I can tell, it seems like "kate and leopold" was geared to be one of those middle of the road type movies that Hollywood typically generates during the slow parts of the year, to gain a little bit of income. Not that it's a bad thing, but it does happen. Sure, it's cheesy and cliched, but it's not supposed to be uber realistic. If it was, then wouldn't Leopold's knowledge of the future alter future events within the space time continuum? After all, as one scientist said, if you even so much as kill a butterfly, then it could cause enormous ramifications on the future. I'm just saying.
Not saying your wrong on any of your assessments, as i think you do bring up a lot of valid points worth noting about the film that was highly interesting to read. Anyways, I had a great time reading this, as I'll definitely rate this up!
prettydarkhorse from US on March 24, 2011:
I watched this one thrice I think! Beautiful!! I am a HUGH fan, hehe!
NateSean (author) from Salem, MA on March 17, 2011:
Cogerson: Yeah. I saw both versions and I agree with James Manigold in his commentary when he responds to the whole incest argument.
It's not really incest because, well, at the time Kate and Stuart weren't related and secondly, you can't have sex with your great-great-great grandmother. It just isn't possible.
Pretty Panther: Glad you enjoyed it. I'm very proud of this hub. :)
UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on March 16, 2011:
Very impressive hub, I really enjoyed your take on Kate and Leopold....I remember when it first came out and they had to change some of the storyline...voted up....from the internet....
Upset movie critics have forced bosses at Mirimax to cut a baffling incest theme from new romantic comedy Kate & Leopold (2002). The movie, which was released in America on Christmas Day (25th December 2001), has been trimmed after critics announced they'd slam a loose incest storyline between MEG RYAN and Live Schreiber.
Top reviewers Robert Ebert and Richard Roeper complained about the implication of incest - a suggestion that Ryan and Shreiber's characters, who play lovers, are genetically related - and that portion of the movie was removed.
PrettyPanther from Oregon on March 16, 2011:
LOL! I'm actually glad I don't think so hard about the details in a fluffy movie like Kate & Leopold. Interesting and entertaining read, though!