The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Genres - Comedy, Fantasy, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Comedy, Romantic Fantasy, Satire, Urban Comedy  |   Run Time - 84 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Michael Betzold

In the Woody Allen canon, The Purple Rose of Cairo marked perhaps the pinnacle of his Mia Farrow era. This is a charming story about an abused, mousy woman (Farrow) who escapes from her alcoholic husband (Danny Aiello) by going to the movies and catching the attention of an on-screen film hero (played with wonderful knowingness by the under-appreciated Jeff Daniels). Allen reversed the effect of Buster Keaton's projectionist's entering a film in Sherlock Jr. by having Daniels's character come off the screen and into Farrow's life. One of several Allen pieces to exhibit his fascination with the entertainment culture of the earlier years of the 20th century (see also Radio Days, Broadway Danny Rose, Bullets over Broadway and Sweet and Lowdown), The Purple Rose of Cairo features a strong, straightforward script that is also not burdened by any actors trying to play Woody Allen. It is a perfect vehicle for Farrow, who is appealing and sympathetic, and the film dotes on her. The movie is redeemed not by a fairy-tale ending, but by an appreciation of the limits of escapism. It masterfully shows us why movies were so alluring during the Great Depression, and what function they served.