Starring: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello
Director: Woody Allen
Running Time: 82 mins
The Purple Rose Of Cairo is an American film about a woman in Depression-era New Jersey who loves losing herself in the magic of the movies, and when she goes to see her new favourite picture: “The Purple Rose Of Cairo” five times, her favourite character walks off the screen into the real world.
This has to be one of Woody Allen’s most underrated films. It doesn’t have the legendary stature of the likes of Annie Hall or Manhattan, but it’s arguably on the same level as them. With a sweet, enjoyable story that’s full of imagination, there’s a lot of fun to be had with this film, and thanks to two fantastic central performances, as well as Allen’s passionate directing, The Purple Rose Of Cairo is a real treat to watch.
Let’s start off with what really makes this film work: the performances. This is the best performance I’ve ever seen from Mia Farrow, not only because she’s so lovely, but also because she captures everything about the time period and her character in an instant. She’s immediately likable, but what’s most impressive is how her character has the sad desperation of so many people during the Great Depression, and yet can be fully enchanted by the magic of the movies, and that performance alone is what makes this entire film so convincing and so enjoyable.
Alongside Farrow is Jeff Daniels, who is also fantastic. Playing both the movie character that steps off the screen and the real-life actor who plays him, Daniels puts in a fantastically fun performance, working brilliantly together with Mia Farrow, and making his two characters different yet weirdly similar enough to heighten the farcical element of the whole story, adding hugely to the film’s comedic brilliance.
And that’s where the story really works well. Rather than being a typical fantasy movie where a movie character becomes real and falls in love, Woody Allen’s screenplay takes a brilliantly original take on the genre, turning the event into a national crisis that everyone gets involved with.
Whilst there are some very sweet and enjoyable periods where we watch the movie character experience the real world, the greatest fun from this film comes from the fact that everyone eventually accepts that this is physically possible, and then ends up in chaos as they attempt to prevent more incidents happening in order to protect the studio’s reputation.
That’s why this film is so entertaining in the end. The premise may sound like a cheesy and ludicrous one, but Woody Allen does a brilliant job at turning it on its head and making something a lot more farcical and funny.
Finally, Allen’s directing here is also very good. Above all, he captures Depression-era America fantastically, tying in with the sadder side of Mia Farrow’s character, but what’s also great to see is how much fun he has playing with early talkies style, from making the film within a film: “The Purple Rose Of Cairo”, but also making fun of all the tropes by having a character from that era clash with the much harsher real world.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Purple Rose Of Cairo. It’s the sort of film that will put a big smile on your face with its sweet and light-hearted story, but it’s also a movie that brings a very different and very funny perspective to a pretty silly premise, and with some great performances, writing and direction that satire the movie business, the Great Depression, and the tropes of classic cinema, there’s a whole lot to love about this, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.