Saturday March 28, 2009
My Most-Quoted Movie Lines (No. 1)
1. “Welcome to the party, pal.”
John McClane in “Die Hard” (1988)
Screenplay by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza
Poor John McClane. He’s just a regular New York City cop visiting his estranged wife at the hoity-toity international corporation she works at in L.A., when the building is taken over by hoity-toity European terrorists. Fortunately, after this and that death struggle, he gets through to the L.A. police on an emergency reserve channel and tells them what’s going down. Unfortunately the woman at the other end merely chastises him for using the emergency reserve channel. Even after he’s shot at — even after she hears him being shot at — she sends only one black-and-white to investigate, and it’s driven by the proverbial fat, donut-eating cop who hasn’t used his gun in years. McClane, already bruised and bloody, watches from above. He sees the dude drive around and go in. Then he has to fight and kill another terrorist. Then he sees the cop about to leave, about to do nothing. So he gives him a present. He drops the terrorist’s body 30-plus stories onto the cop’s car. Which is when the terrorists inside — realizing the jig is up — begin shooting up the car like it’s a duck at a shooting gallery, and the cop is screaming for backup even as he backs his own car into a ditch to escape the gunfire. And above, John McClane looks down and says the line: “Welcome to the party, pal.”
It’s a real American line, isn’t it? Nothing hoity-toity about it. McClane’s been dealing with something for a long time, and now someone else is dealing with it, too. And he’s nothing if not a gracious host.
I say it under similar circumstances — sans the blood and sweat and terrorists.
A car cut you off while you were biking? Welcome to the party, pal. You have asthma? Welcome to the party, pal. You’re 30 years old and have broken many hearts, and now, just now, your own heart has been broken for the first time? Welcome to the party, pal.
If something’s truly tragic, of course, I won’t say it. I’m not a complete dick. Otherwise...
Mostly I say it when the complaining person is too obtuse to realize I’ve been suffering under this “thing” (asthma; rosacea; losing baseball teams) as long as I have. Like they’re bringing me news.
Also when their news is more or less universal. Broken hearts. Stupid bosses. Rain.
In a way, it isn’t even a “gotcha” line. Pull back far enough and it’s basically saying the human condition is messy and unpleasant. But let’s call it a party anyway. And let’s call you a pal. And welcome.