Roman Holiday (1953)
It might have seemed like a risky move for William Wyler to place an unknown actress at the center of a love-story/fairy tale movie that depended entirely on its two leads—but anyone can tell you that it paid off well. Wyler should be credited for finding and showcasing Audrey Hepburn's talent, making a film that would earn her an Oscar (her only one) and launch her career into mega-stardom.
The movie begins as a princess is making a tour of Europe. She is obviously bored by all the formalities that come with being a royal, so she does little things to make entertain herself. She stands on one foot and takes the other out of her heels, naturally this doesn't end well; but she has enough grace to save the situation.
But then, it all boils over and Princess Ann (Hepburn) decides to take a leave of absence. She runs away in the middle of the night in Rome, determined to experience life a little more before returning to strict schedules and dreaded severity. Yet there's a hitch in her plan, she was given a shot of sleeping medicine right before her midnight adventures which leaves her asleep on the side of the road, giving a terrific appearance of being smashed.
Enter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), a news reporter who's set to interview Princess Ann the next day before noon. He finds the drunken woman and doesn't recognize her as a person of importance. After much deliberating and arguing with a cab driver, he dumps her on his couch and lets her spend the night at his place.
The next morning turns into the next afternoon before Joe wakes up. As the clocks chime noon he awakes from his slumber and realizes his mistake. While he was sleeping, the royals have discovered of Ann's disappearance and they invent a story of illness and influenza. The newspapers all run the story that the princess is very ill and will clear her schedule for that day.
When Joe gets to his work, he tries to make up a story that quickly unravels. But then he sees a picture of the 'sick' princess and knows that he accidentally hit the jackpot.
He rushes home after promising his boss an exclusive interview with Princess Ann and finds her waking up, with a much clearer head.
There is a little tension at first, but then he takes her out for an 'average' day in Rome. All the time, she doesn't realize that he knows she is the princess; and that he's exploiting her circumstances.
If we're being brutally honest, "Roman Holiday" employs stilted dialogue, an impossible romance, and characters that feel flat.
Peck and Hepburn are likable enough and their chemistry is good; but I couldn't help feeling that their meeting could never take place—not necessarily because of the situation that occurs; but because neither of them act like their characters.
Bradley is a starving journalist who just wants to get back to America; and Ann is a rigid girl looking for a little fun. She doesn't flinch as she lights up a cigarette and chugs champagne...it seemed a little forced.
But the film looks great...so there's the visual appeal.
I've found that I really don't care for any of Wyler's pictures (the ones that I've seen). He seems to cheerful for my taste. His grittier and more realistic films, like "The Best Years of our Lives" come across very stereotypical and generally unpleasant.
"Roman Holiday" is sweet and harmless enough; but it is no masterpiece. It's reminiscent of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" which would be another big Aubrey Hepburn film. She's a good actress, Peck is a good actor; but "Roman Holiday" is not that great of a movie.
Still the ending was nice to see, because it strays so far from the "traditional" finale.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones