The Purple Rose of Cairo - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Purple Rose of Cairo Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 18, 2014
Classic and classy Woody Allen. Tom Baxter, an adventurous movie character steps off the screen to woo Cecilia, a starry-eyed, Depression-era waitress and cinephile, but the character's portrayer, Gil Shepherd, a smooth, somewhat megalomaniacal rising star, is called in to counter-woo Cecilia so that the show can go on.

Woody's escapist fantasia is blissful yet tragic, blurring the lines between reality and make-believe, the haves and the have-nots, and love and truth.

It was nice to see young, wispy Dianne Wiest and bug-eyed Glenne Headley as slinky prostitutes. After watching so much cantankerous old Jeff Daniels on "The Newsroom," bright-eyed bushy-tailed young Jeff Daniels is a remarkable palate cleanser, with a great singing voice to boot! Mia Farrow is, of course, charismatic and vibrant with her delicate voice and damselly beauty.

The last scene of her, dejected by the wretched realities of her life yet still utterly captivated by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in "Top Hat," is just the most indelible final image in Woody's canon.
Super Reviewer
December 26, 2008
"I just met a wonderful new man. He's fictional but you can't have everything."

In 1930s New Jersey, a movie character walks off the screen and into the real world.

There's no way you can't like the ingenuity of the movie, and the fun it has. It's about the joy of life, and love of the movies, and the difficulty to tell the difference sometimes (at least when in the theater). In some ways this is one of Woody Allen's lightest movies, and certainly lightweight compared to the more serious movies of this period (like the stunning gem, "Another Woman"). It's not zany like his earliest comedies ("Love and Death"). And it's not deeply observant and sometimes downright moving and brilliant like his best movies (like "Annie Hall" or "Crimes and Misdemeanors"). In that way it feels like what some novelists would call an "entertainment" to distinguish from their heavier masterpieces, and sometimes these are the most readable of all. Or the most watchable.

"The Purple Rose of Cairo" is inventive, warm, and touching. It's really high brow hilarious when the people on the screen react to the situation, not only because of the existential reality shift going on, but because they are all high brow types. Then there are the everyday scenes with Mia Farrow, the lead actress in the real world (usually), and support from Danny Aiello, really just a foil for the main romances (two) going on with Farrow (singular). It's not as complicated as it sounds, which might prove the elegance of Allen's writing. A beautiful, delicate movie without undo weightiness. Joyous, yes, even in its melancholy end.
Super Reviewer
May 12, 2012
One Allen film w/o himself or one of his numerous doppelgangers, which is a clue that here is a subject that is finally larger than Allen: his love of movies, that he freely shares with movie fans everywhere. So he takes one of the movie fan's most cherished desire (" ... I wish I could be there ... or that here was like there ...") and plays with it a little. Mia Farrow plays us, the fan, is our doppelganger, and the movies are a) better than real life, and b) but not real life. One of the better Allen films, Farrow's contented gazing at the screen too brief to be iconic, but it should be ...
Super Reviewer
March 3, 2011
Funny, charming and lighter than air, The Purple Rose of Cairo is the quintessential Woody Allen comedy. As per usual, the cast is a delight: a perfectly cast Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels and Danny Aiello. The visuals and the music are enchanting; the ending, perfect. I actually preferred the similar Midnight in Paris but I thoroughly enjoyed Purple Rose as well.
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2007
Super cute and bitter sweet.
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2007
Cinema seen as a confessional booth where one can atone sins or ease sorrow but only to face reality once the show is over. Cecilia (A lovely Mia Farrow) understood only at the end that one should never push to obtain perfection, that beauty can also be found in the ordinary
Super Reviewer
½ January 27, 2011
Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo" is THE meta-romantic comedy classic. (I know thats a rather limited genre, but still) The picture is endlessly witty and charming. Mia Farrow and Jeff Daniels are wonderful here. Delightful and fun in every sense.
The Gandiman
Super Reviewer
½ October 30, 2010
"I just met a wonderful new man. He's fictional, but you can't have everything."

That wonderful line of dialogue from the magical pen of Woody Allen sums up the genius behind "The Purple Rose of Cairo". "Cairo" is a funny, fun, clever and touching tale of an unhappy New Jersey housewife during the Great Depression who is swept away by a celluloid Prince Charming who comes into her life right off of the movie screen.

What at first can sound like a shallow movie plot shows remarkable depth as the device is used merely as a vehicle to explore how sad reality can be. Cecilia (the affecting Mia Farrow) spends her afternoons escaping her harsh married life in the town's movie house taking in the pictures. When "The Purple Rose of Cairo" a picture about a dashing Egyptologist Tom Baxter played by fictional actor Gil Shephard (played by real actor Jeff Daniels) comes to town, Cecilia watches the movie several times until all of a sudden he breaks the fourth wall and notices Cecilia in the movie theater. He steps off the screen and romances the down-on-her-luck Cecilia.

This of course wreaks havoc with the film and sets in motion a series of events that ultimately leads up to Cecilia having to make a potentially life-changing decision. This film is well renown among Allen's films for how it unfolds and it does so brilliantly and without compromise and without sacrificing the film's tone.

The performances, particularly Farrow, were spot on, but "Cairo"'s biggest achievement is its ability to take such a fantastical plot point (remember how poorly "The Last Action Hero" did it?) and make it work so beautifully.

"Purple Rose of Cairo" ranks among Woody Allen's best and is one of his most underappreciated classics.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
August 11, 2010
Movies have always been used as a form of escapism, especially when times are tough (such as during the Great Depression), but what happens when the movies themselves desire escape? That's what happens in Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo", Allen's tribute to the golden age of cinema. The film is indeed appropriately set smackdab in the middle of the Great Depression, where lonely Cecilia struggles hard to make ends meet. Inbetween slaving as a waitress in a diner and taking care of her domineering and abusive husband (the excellently creepy Danny Aiello), she frequents the local movie house. She must go there often as she's on a first name basis with all the employees. Sure, during the day her life may suck, but for a few hours each week, she can be transported off to exotic locations and expensive night clubs, experiencing the fleeting affairs and romances of beautiful movie stars. She especially enjoys the new film, "The Purple Rose of Cairo", taking in several matinees. One character, the "aww shucks", all around good guy and egyptologist, Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), especially catches her eye. She apparently also catches his eye, as one day he turns to her and begins speaking to her from up on the screen. Moments later, he steps down off the screen and the two run off together, bringing scene to a halt. The characters in the movie don't know what to do without Tom there, and so just sit and wait for him to return, much to the chagrin of the audience in attendance (they begin to heckle the screen, and the people in the movie begin to heckle the members of the audience in return). Word quickly spreads of this strange phenomenon and soon the town is bustling with hollywood agents looking to put an end to the "bad publicity". Meanwhile, Cecilia and Tom grow acquainted and of course like any old time movie character, Tom almost immediately proclaims his love for her. Cecilia seems more concerned with just catching her breath after all the supernatural goings on, but she's entirely sympathetic to the idea. Much like her fantasies of leaving her husband, her fantasies of running off with Tom seem like they are so very possible. The craziness only heightens when the actor who portrayed Tom Baxter in the movie, Gil Shepherd, comes to town to try and save his career in hollywood (just suppose this living incarnation of his performance commits some crime or "rapes some woman", as his agents so often remind him). He too, meets and becomes attracted to Cecilia, who is then caught in a sort of love triangle between a movie star and his character. It's a quaint little film that still manages to give us a bit of melancholy near the end, as per Allen's more serious films. The Tom Baxter character is the stand in for Woody this time, fulfilling Woody's usual role of being an outsider looking in (or is it an insider looking out?). He makes no bones about his feelings about anything: love, religion, society. The character is the perfect man as invisioned by Woody. And yet, he's also a very apt tribute to the great film characters of the early days of cinema. In fact, the Purple Rose of Cairo is a love letter to the golden age of film. The care put forth into creating a 1930s film, from the lighting and film type, to the music and make up, it all looks authentic. The Purple Rose of Cairo is a film that aims small, but hits big.
Super Reviewer
December 9, 2008
Mia Farrow is great in almost everything she does, and this is her right to play a lead. Jeff Daniels is very innocent, and the premise is wonderful.
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2007
wonderful fantasy for film fans. i love jeff daniels' performance in this. in new jersey, anything can happen...
Super Reviewer
June 12, 2006
Cecilia: I just met a wonderful new man. He's fictional but you can't have everything.

Considered by Woody Allen himself to be his favorite film, this film takes a premise set in a surreal world during the depression involving a high concept, romance, and Allen's own love for cinema.

The story centers around Cecilia, played by a lovely Mia Farrow, she is working as a waitress during the depression era. Her husband, Danny Aiello, is a bully and spends his days doing nothing with his friends, and drinks at night. Meanwhile, Cecilia loves to go to the movie theaters.

After having enough of her husband for one night, she retreats to the theater to watch The Purple Rose of Cairo. She sits in the theater for hours, rewatching the movie, when all of the sudden something extraordinary happens. One of the characters, Tom Baxter played by Jeff Daniels, literally breaks the fourth wall by stepping out of the picture after noticing Cecilia watching him, and runs off with her.

Not only is the audience shocked, but so are the remaining characters in the movie. Cecilia and Tom spend time together, meanwhile the studio becomes involved, worrying of danger if one of their characters could do something wrong.

Mr. Hirsch's Lawyer: As your lawyer, I advise you to get control of it fast. A character from one of your productions on the loose? Who knows what he's capable of? Robbery? Murder? I see lawsuits.

This includes the actor who plays Baxter, Gil Shepherd also Daniels, to come and try to reason with Cecilia and Tom to go back to how things were. Problems arise when both Tom and Gil claim to have fallen in love with Cecilia.

Tom Baxter: [To Cecilia] I love you. I'm honest, dependable, courageous, romantic, and a great kisser.
Gil Shepherd: And I'm real.

This movie succeeds do to a number of things. Its very enjoyable for one. The premise is fun and at about 80 minutes, it moves along quickly enough to hit the notes it needs to. The dialog is of course good in the way Allen's style as a writer works. The characters are very entertaining, though I wished for a little more depth on Aiello as the husband. However, I particularly enjoyed Daniels, who is great in both his roles, which are played differently and both work. The overall impact of the story is also effective. Without spoiling much, by the end of the film, it is clear that themes involving cinema vs. the real world have provided for an appropriate conclusion.

As a film it is technically very well done. The art direction is very good, working with both depression era themes, and the events taking place from within the projected films. The soundtrack is lovely. Allen doesn't go overboard with special effects, but the couple scenes involving some trickery are well handled.

This is a very entertaining film, that works with the premise it sets up.

Tom Baxter: Cecilia, it's clear how miserable you are with your husband. And if he hits you again, you tell me. I'd be forced to knock his teeth out.
Cecilia: I don't think that'd be such a good idea. He's big.
Tom Baxter: I'm sorry. It's written into my character to do it, so I do it.
Super Reviewer
½ November 22, 2007
I never thought a Woody Allen film could be so GOOD without Woody Allen actually acting in it. You can tell Allen really, really loved this film - there's such an atmosphere of realness in this (despite the fact that the story is far from real). There's none of that self-mockery prevalent in many of Allen's films - he completely immerses the audience in the 30s and Mia Farrow's look fits perfectly with the surroundings. The lines are convincingly delivered and it's funny, but not in the usual sharp, zinging humor - it's lighter, fluffier, and infinitely more lovely.
Super Reviewer
March 12, 2007
Good fantasy-romance tale of an unhappy small-town housewife with the movies that the hero of her favourite film steps out of the screen and begins romancing her. This intriguing idea begins well but, despite its short running time, runs out of wit and invention long before the film runs out of the projector.
Super Reviewer
February 22, 2007
Charming light fantasy penned by Woody Allen with a fine cast and witty dialogue. Once again, my enjoyment of Allen's films seems inextricably linked to his absence...
Super Reviewer
February 1, 2007
This is one of the most clever and funniest movies I've ever seen. There are so many great lines and scenes. The brothel scene takes the cake and as heartbreaking as it is, the ending is great.
Super Reviewer
April 27, 2013
Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo is a fresh and creative idea that celebrates the very idea of film escapism. A poor woman living in New Jersey named Cecilia goes to the movies every week to escape from her hectic job as a waitress, when one day, one of the characters from the film "notices" she appeared at the theater to see his film five times. He steps off the screen and goes with her into the real world. It's a cool concept, and it's done with heart and a clear love for movies. Despite this movie being filmed in 1985, it seems like Woody Allen directed the actors in such a way to make them act like they were in a movie from the 30's (which is when the film takes place). So it seems like you're watching a movie that is much older than it actually is, which is interesting but comedic at the same time. When the fictional movie character fights Cecilia's husband, it's clear that Allen was tributing the now cheesy style of old black and white films. The ending further capitalizes on the idea of people escaping to the movies when things get bad, or when we make bad decisions. Like alcoholics drink alcohol to forget their problems, as drug addicts do drugs, Cecilia (along with the normal people in society) uses movie theaters as an escape- and what a beautiful escape it is.
Super Reviewer
August 31, 2007
This and Pleasantville are both about disrupted routine and comparing the fictional world of 30's movies or 50's TV to real life. Woody Allen doesn't appear in this one. But a year after Broadway Danny Rose, Mia Farrow turns in another excellent performance. Dianne Wiest is on hand too in her first Allen film. Jeff Daniels plays a dual role with a lot of youthful energy. I was tickled by Allen's recreation of Depression Era life and 1930's high society movie fantasy! Farrow as Cecilia escapes her poor hum-drum existence by going to the movies. Daniels as Tom Baxter is an "honest, dependable, courageous, romantic" movie character in a pith helmet. During one "performance" he notices Cecilia out in the audience and steps off the screen into the real world. The adventures of the fictional character trying to adjust to the real world are hilarious. Later, Daniels as Gil Shepherd, the actor, is brought to Cecilia's town by the movie's producers to find his creation and convince him to go back in the movie to finish the story. The actor's self-absorption and ability to charm Cecilia makes for an interesting shift between Daniels' two characters. Meanwhile, the rest of the movie cast is lost and unable to continue with the scene, they sit around making witty comments about the lives of movie characters and heckling the audience as some audience members heckle back. It's a puzzling situation for the fictional characters and curious audience members alike, actually interacting with each other. Cecilia falls in love with both versions of Jeff Daniels and must choose between the fictional and the real. But, is the real life man any less fictional in the end?
Super Reviewer
½ March 12, 2009
At first it looks like it's going to be one of Allen's nostalgia pieces but it's actually one of his most intelligent and moving films. That ending is just beautiful.
Super Reviewer
May 13, 2013
Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo has a highly creative and intelligent idea behind it. It wasn't just a simple the screen comes to life story, the witty dialogue made this far superior to a plain story. I feel the first half really did express and let this creativity flow. The second half which is more romantic was less down my alley. After about 45 minutes I became more and more out of tune with the film. Which is unfortunate since I was highly involved at first.

Mia Farrow is once again a great actress, and is sexy. In fact I'd watch the film just for her. This is one of Woodys films that he doesn't star in as well as direct/write. I think it would've been a good idea to have him play the director of "The Purple Rose of Cairo", but that didn't happen so after 28 years nothing you can do. It was a feel good movie, but unfortunately didn't have enough ideas to keep it running.

3 stars
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