Love him or hate him, Woody Allen every once-in-a-while does direct some excellent films. The Purple Rose of Cairo is one of those films. This romantic comedy pokes fun at romance, the film going experience and cliches of filmmaking—all the while portraying the necessity of film during the depression era.
Cecilia (Mia Farrow) escapes to the movies as her life outside the cinema is a depression-filled as the economy. Her husband Monk (Danny Aiello) disrespects her and never accepts her attempts to leave him, and she is clumsy and aloof at her job as a waitress. Cecilia becomes entranced by the new fictitious film, The Purple Rose of Cairo, which she views numerous times. But finally, Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) finally breaks the forth wall by acknowledging Cecilia’s numerous screenings, and exits the film world and appears in reality.
Tom and Cecilia run off taking part in romantic escapades, each one falling short of perfection until Tom realizes his film world money is useless, and not all cars in reality have key-less ignitions. The characters in the film choose not to continue with the film without Tom, causing the film to continuously play to an audience that grows tired of the actors sitting around, doing nothing.
Whimsical and smart, The Purple Rose of Cairo is a very well paced film, clocking at just under ninety minutes, any more, the film would suffer from bloat. Much like most good Allen films, The Purple Rose of Cairo is filled with a large list of quotable moments, most often dealing with the absurdity of the mid-1980s mainstream film audiences, and of course Allen’s required metaphysical and philosophical questions.
“You make love without fading out?”
“I just met a wonderful new man. He’s fictional but you can’t have everything.”
“I don’t get hurt or bleed, hair doesn’t muss; it’s one of the advantages of being imaginary. “
“I want what happened in the movie last week to happen this week; otherwise, what’s life all about anyway? “
The Purple Rose of Cairo is the perfect film for a non-Woody Allen fan, the writer/director does not appear in it, yet his style and themes are as present as any of his other films. One of the most interesting aspects of this film, is how Cecilia relies on the cinema to provide the escapism she needs to move on in her life. During the depression era, the film industry did well, particularly with musicals and comedy. This escapism still exists, which is why films like The Losers exist, to provide the escapism from the common man’s miserable life.
Much like any great movie, when it is over, we must fall out of love with the cinematic world and return to what some may feel is a grim realit. Each week another film arrives, hoping to offer that numbness and escape some are addicted to.