The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) (PG)
"The Purple Rose of Cairo" sees Woody Allen at the peak of his powers. It's a work that reflects the very best of all of Allen's great attributes—his charm, his romance, his intelligence, and his humor. It is not without the "Allen themes" mainly infidelity, 'the average life', realism, mortality, and the intricacy of everyday life; but the rest of the film is a dazzling masterpiece. Truly endearing and blindingly original.
"The Purple Rose of Cairo" is actually a movie about a movie. The film focuses its lens on Cecilia (Mia Farrow), a woman hopelessly in love with the movies. Allen's love for cinema is shown here again in Cecilia as she returns to the theater again and again, always ready to be taken away to a different land. She is a waitress at a little diner where she works with her sister (Stephanie Farrow); but that's now what she wants to do, she wants to live the life of the screen. Her husband, Monk (Danny Aiello) is a typical scumbag character. He is abusive, lazy, and loud. Cecilia is ready for a change and one day she goes to the theater to see a new movie called "The Purple Rose of Cairo". The movie has all her favorite stars in it and she gets captivated by the story: a group of rich socialites journey through Egypt and bring back a young archaeologist who falls in love with a jazz singer.
She is in a daze the next day while she is waitressing. Convincing her sister to go to the movies with her, Cecilia goes back and sees the film again, if anything loving it more the second time.
But things aren't too great at home and Cecilia suspects her husband of cheating on her. She tries to leave; but it doesn't work out for her. She comes home with her tail between her legs.
The next day doesn't go too well and she gets fired from her job. Instead of anything rational, she spends the entire day watching "The Purple Rose of Cairo" again and again. Near the end of one showing, the young archaeologist character Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) turns to her and starts to speak to her. Announcing his attraction to her, he steps out of the screen and walks right to her and then they
run out of the theater.
Dazed and confused, Cecilia is now left with a dreamy, albeit completely fictitious character who is falling in love with her by the second. The strong attention and lovely looks are hard to turn away. Cecilia realizes that this Tom Baxter character is the man of her dreams...but things don't always work out like they do in movies.
Unleashed from their prison of monotony, the remaining characters in "The Purple Rose of Cairo" just sit around the living room and wait on Tom Baxter's return so they can continue their movie.
There are so many dynamics in "The Purple Rose of Cairo" that work well, mainly the way Allen spins the story so that you are convinced of its authenticity. The introduction of Gil Shepherd (Jeff Daniels again) as the actor who played Tom Baxter is a stroke of genius. Jeff Daniels does a remarkable job as the master of both characters...both who are substantially different from the other.
But the real star of the movie is Mia Farrow because her nervous way of talking—she never quite gets a sentence out—and her demeanor that shifts during the movie is pure magic.
"The Purple Rose of Cairo" is less neurotic than Allen's other works and less bitter also. It remains one of the director's best works and one of the crowning jewels in his proverbial crown.
It's smart, heartfelt, and just so damn wonderful.
Posted by Micah Jones