The Purple Rose of Cairo Review
The Purple Rose of Cairo is a 1985 fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen and starring Mia Farrow and Jeff Daniels. It is one of the best films of the 1980s and the director’s finest work.
It is set in the 1930s and follows Cecilia who is a cinephile who goes to movies repeatedly. One day, a film character walks out of the screen and movies into the real world. The two start a romantic relationship until the film actor of the same character arrives, thus complicating everything in a typical screwball comedy manner. While this premise might sound foolish to some, I thoroughly enjoyed it as I found the subject matter and especially the fantasy elements incredibly original. It is the kind of film where you wonder how nobody thought of such a premise before as it is wonderfully suitable for this genre. I read that some critics found the story similar to that of Buster Keaton’s 1924 classic film ‘Sherlock Jr.’ and while the story has some similarities, I still found this movie to be much different and overall better work.
The characters are so amazingly endearing. Wow, how wonderful they are. Almost all of them made me smile and laugh and even Monk who is a highly unlikable brute gets his funny line which is one of the funniest in the movie. Tom Baxter is such a great character that could have easily turned out awful and one-note, but instead became so likable and you root for the guy. Gil Shepherd as his real life actor is fantastic as this egoistic celebrity that is in love with himself and has higher ambitions. I loved his moment near the end as it is such a phenomenal conclusion for his and every character here and is so subtle and just wonderful. But of course, this is Cecilia’s movie as she is the main character. I absolutely loved her. She is such a realistically depicted woman of the time that is weak at first, but still proves herself and stands up for herself in the end and that I loved. But her love of movies drives the film and as a cinephile myself, I found that representation of such a character immensely appealing and unique as unfortunately those are not as present in films as they should be. But she is above all a charming and just such a lovable woman that you can’t help but love.
The Purple Rose of Cairo is almost a flawless film and in terms of bigger flaws, it surely has none and it is an impeccable product. I would have to be nitpicking to find any problems and I am not going to do it this time around as the movie is so fantastic, so beautiful beyond any words that it doesn’t deserve that kind of approach. This is the film that made me smile throughout the whole running time and that almost never happens to me. Yes, it is that special! I had a smile on my face from beginning to end and I even wanted to cry near the end, but not because it was sad, but because it was that moving. And that is an incredible achievement that they made a movie that is so joyous, so heartwarming and so inherently beautiful that it can make you cry. And it is innocent which is a thing that lacks from most of the movies and that is the biggest strength here. It is childlike, but not childish. It is innocent, but not stupid. It is just perfect and it is the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time.
There are many highlights. The one is the ending which I feared would not be as good as the rest of the film, but I was proved otherwise as Allen knew exactly what he wanted to do and how to end it and he did it magnificently. It is a thoroughly satisfying, melancholic and even sad ending, while still keeping its inherent beauty, joy and charm intact. When Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers appeared on screen and started singing and dancing to one of the best songs of the period Cheek to Cheek, the joyous smile on my face was overshadowed by Cecilia’s look on her face which was just priceless. This is why I watch movies. The Purple Rose of Cairo wonderfully recreates the thirties not only in its attention to detail and character interactions, but also in its evident screwball formula and evident charm and sophistication. This picture is such a wonderful homage to the classics of the time, it is homage to the thirties, but above all it is a love letter to those films and a love letter to film overall. I loved that about it. It came from a real cinephile and I loved it immensely as I absolutely adore this decade and it is depicted here in the most romantic, most beautiful way possible.
Another highlight is the beginning that introduces you to Cecilia in such a great, quick manner. I also adored the film screen sequences and the fantasy elements in this movie just work. They could have been silly, but ended up being charming throughout. The scene with the prostitutes is another standout moment and I loved the humor of the film. Wow, is this movie funny. It is absolutely hilarious at certain times, but is always fun and at least slightly funny which is such a commendable achievement. The recreation of screwball comedies is superb and all the scenarios here bring laughs. I loved the film characters and the scenes with them talking to the audience and bickering are just gems. Also, Monk can be funny, but it is Gil who is hilarious in his conversation with Cecilia. When she starts complimenting his acting, the looks on Jeff Daniels‘ face are just phenomenal.
That is another great aspect here – the acting. Jeff Daniels has rarely been this good as he recreates the two quite different characters in such an inspired manner. He is truly great here and so likable. The casting director also did an amazing job as he is perfect for this role, he has the looks that fits the time period perfectly. But Mia Farrow is terrific as well. She gave such a powerhouse performance and made this character work with superb facial expressions and excellent delivery.
The Purple Rose of Cairo is also wonderfully directed by Woody Allen and it is in my opinion his finest work. It is also deftly edited with never a rushed or dull moment. It is very short and while I wanted it to last much longer, I still loved that choice as it is perfect for the genre and the film wraps up beautifully. It is short, but sweet. It is well shot with some great cinematography, the dialogue is just superb as is the screenplay and the tone is so satisfying, always happy, but still somewhat sad and grounded in the end. The fantasy works, but the romance is absolutely phenomenal and it is one of the most purely romantic films I’ve ever seen. And of course it works as a comedy as it is funny a bunch of times. It has a brain and heart. It is very heartwarming, but also always sophisticated. I loved its themes as the film is very clever. It wonderfully juxtaposes the romanticism of the movies with the harsh reality of life and that theme hit me on so many levels. The score is good and the film is very memorable and not predictable at all. And the originality factor is evident as it is one of the most authentic films of the time. It is without any doubt one of the best films of the eighties and it is to me one of the best films of all time. A true classic and such a gem of a movie.
With a sophisticated and incredibly original script, superb performances, absolutely fantastic humor, incredibly endearing characters, many moving parts, heartwarming ending and evident charm and heart, The Purple Rose of Cairo is such a beautiful homage to the 1930s and such a great love letter to cinema as a whole. It is the director’s finest work and one of the best films of the 1980s.
My Rating – 5
Interior & Exterior Stills from The Purple Rose of Cairo
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