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.