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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)


If any movie theater can allow for this to happen, then perverts are going to be knocking at the door.

Cecilia (Mia Farrow) lives one of the saddest lives you will ever witness a lady of her age living, and it only seems to get worse. Not only is she clinging on to a job that seems like she’s going to be fired from any second now, but her husband (Danny Aiello) is a philandering gambler that thinks every discussion must be solved by either a slap or a hit. Cecilia puts up with this all because, quite frankly, like everybody else during the Great Depression, she had nowhere else to go and was lucky enough to even have a house, a job and a husband. However, life isn’t all that bad for Cecilia once she steps into her local movie theater at least once, or twice, or maybe even three times a day, escaping the harsh reality of the world outside, and just setting her eyes on the fantastical world that these movies create, placing her into something entirely new and imaginative, even if it is only for an hour or so. One movie that Cecilia seems to really be addicted to is this new feature called The Purple Rose of Cairo, so much so that she sees it five times in-a-row. She’s so addicted that even one of the characters, Tom (Jeff Daniels), notices this, walks off the screen, takes her by the hand, exclaims his love for her and whist her away on a journey where they will most likely fall in love and be together, forever. Problem here being that not only is Tom not a real person, but the movie he left is now stopped, without any signs of moving forward, leaving all of the other characters in the movie without a single sense of direction. They just wait, wait and wait some more until Tom comes back to the dull, monotonous life of a movie-screen character, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing that anytime soon.

Have no clue why I went so balls to the walls with that synopsis, but once I started typing, I just couldn’t stop. Most of you will understand, and for that, I say thank you, For the ones who don’t understand, then whatever. On with the review!

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

This little gem is from the creative mind of Woody Allen who, if you don’t know by now, usually hits big, or misses terribly. Lately, it’s been more of the latter than the former, then again, that will most likely continue to be more common since he is getting up there in terms of age, and he still continues to make at least one movie a year, if not some other ones on the side. But back in the 80’s, Woody reigned as supreme as he could get with acclaimed hit, after acclaimed hit, and it only got better and better when the 90’s rained in. Here, with this movie, the man not only shows his love for the past, but for the present, and possibly, future of film, while also letting us know that it’s all bullshit in the end.

See, while you don’t expect Woody to throw in a frown here, despite all of the happiness, joy and romanticism on full-display, he somehow does and is able to make it work, feeling as if you are in fact watching a Woody Allen movie. There’s plenty of times where you can tell that his love for film transcends any generation, but more so here because he was born in the 30’s (when this story takes place), and it makes you feel even closer to the story, just as much as he probably does making it. Plenty of the signature Woody wit and charm is to be found in the writing, but the cute feelings of falling in love with someone completely out of the blue is what really resonated with me so well, and this is, might I remind you, coming from the same guy who made Annie Hall, Manhattan, Husbands and Wives and plenty other “love and life suck” movies.

And even though there is a romance at the centerpiece of this movie, you still get the idea that Woody’s using it as a tool to get across his feelings about the art of cinema itself; an art form that will be around forever because it has real human-beings escape the world they live in, but yet, is also filled with so many unrealistic hopes and dreams, that it can sometimes be detrimental to those said human-beings’ minds as they will most likely buy into these visions if they begin to take these lessons of these films to heart. While that does sound terribly bleak and unpleasant, it is, once again, a Woody Allen movie, so you have to sort of expect it nonetheless. But even though it seems like Woody may be against, in some small regards, the form of art that is film, in other larger regards, he embraces it wholeheartedly and fully, letting us know that he’s as happy as banshee to be a filmmaker in a day and age like today; and even more happier and thankful for the ones who have came before him, most likely throwing inspiration his way.

Yet, don’t be fooled by how downbeat I may be selling this flick as, because while it does end on a rather grim note (one that I wasn’t expecting in the slightest bit), there is still a happy idea about movies and what they do to a person, for better and for worse. However, Woody knows that movies are supposed to make people happy, take them into a world, and all while informing them a bit as well, which is exactly what he does here, to ever so great effect, all before ending on a rather sad note. But like I said, it’s expected knowing Woody, the die hard cynic.

If that's Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

If that’s Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

Speaking of this being a Woody Allen film, since this was one made in the 80’s, it only made perfect sense that his gal-pal of that decade, Mia Farrow, would get a lead role in this movie as Cecilia. However, even though Woody did this plenty of times for his next couple movies, it still never felt unnecessary, as if she didn’t deserve all of the favoritism she was getting from his lovable, yet, soon-to-be wandering, eye. Because yes, even though they were going out at the time, Farrow still deserved to be in most of these roles because she’s a very talented actress, making it easy for us to believe that she can play all of these different roles, under the same direction of the same dude she goes to sleep with at night. All of that aside though, Farrow is great here in her role as Cecilia because she really is such a cute little darling, that you hate to see it when she’s sad and depressed about the life that she’s been living. Heck, the only time she ever gets anything remotely close to pleasure or happiness, is when she pays a dime to go see a movie, where she is ultimately thrown into a world unlike any other. This may have a negative effect on her mind, her innocence really makes you forget about all of that nonsense and just be there for her when she finally finds the love of her life, even despite him not being a real person; just a movie character.

Jeff Daniels also does a pretty effective job as this movie character, Tom, because while he’s so naive about his existence, it would be so easy for us to write him-off as “annoying” or “a joke done-to-death”. Like for instance, instead of handing the waiter actual money, he hands him the fake money he has in his pockets from the movie, and doesn’t know why the dude’s reaction is so negative. But Daniels somehow overcomes all of those problems and gives us a really likable guy that we would love to see walk off with Cecilia in his arms at the end, even if it does seem highly unlikely, or even illogical. He also is given another chance to show us another character of his in this same movie, except this time, he’s playing the actor of the character himself: Gil Shepherd. This is where Daniels really shines in showing us a guy that seems like a pretentious dick, but one that also may be a good guy underneath the whole facade of this Hollywood superstar. We never know what type of angle he’s playing though, and that’s when Woody himself comes in and gets all dark and sinister on our asses.

Once again, he’s a die-hard cynic. Don’t forget about that.

Consensus: The Purple Rose of Cairo works as a joyful, pleasant and sweet unabashed love letter to the art of movies, but also works as a symbol of love, showing us that the man still does believe in the feeling’s power, yet, also knows that, like movies, sometimes the reality is harder to chew on than the fictional ideas surrounding it.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The calm before the storm, as they say.

The calm before the storm, as they say.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

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9 responses to “The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

  1. ninvoid99 July 21, 2014 at 3:39 am

    Easily one of my favorite Woody Allen films. It’s one that is so magical and so whimsical.

  2. ashokbhatia July 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Must put this on my to-be-watched list!

  3. Mark Hobin July 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    One of my Top 3 Wood Allen films. The ending is heartbreaking!

  4. keith7198 July 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    This is one of the Woody flicks I have yet to see!!!

  5. 70srichard July 21, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Nice post, a favorite Allen film although it has been ten years since I saw it.

  6. Ms. Coolsville July 22, 2014 at 12:15 am

    What a coincidence, I just watched this movie again over the weekend. One of Woody’s finest – it’s very dreamlike throughout, but the ending pushes you back into reality. I loved seeing classic film star Van Johnson on the screen.

  7. ruth July 22, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Ahah, your first sentence is hilarious! I quite enjoy this one, and I don’t always dig everything Woody Allen does.

  8. Marshall July 22, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    I love this film, glad you chose to watch/review it. It’s become a secret fantasy of mine that the premise will happen to me … preferably while watching Annie Hall, haha.

  9. vinnieh July 24, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Great review, such a magical movie.

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