The Purple Rose of Cairo Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.