Thursday, March 3, 2016

Roman Holiday

Accept a new review, thank you, don't accept, no, thank you. So, here we are at Audrey Hepburn's American film debut (though she had appeared earlier on the CBS Television Workshop). I re-watched it a few days ago, since I hadn't seen it since childhood. It was the first movie I remember seeing where the hero and the heroine fall in love and don't end up together, and I remember it made me unreasonably upset as a wee lass of 7. After all, they were in love! They should be together! I didn't quite grasp the whole political nuance thing back then, though at the time it also didn't seem remotely unreasonable that a couple should fall eternally in love after 24 hours. That's how it works, right? Especially when the nice young man has a gorgeous voice and takes you around on a scooter and you eat ice cream. But this is a fairy tale, and like all other fairy tales, there is a certain leeway in logistics. It also opened up the the era of movies where Audrey Hepburn dodges around some major European city looking impossibly chic with a man who is much older than she is. And a few times she dodges around a major American city looking impossibly chic with a man who is much older than she is. I don't know why they always cast her along side men who were at least 10-20 years her senior. Maybe they thought that played up even more how elegant and fascinating she looked in just about anything - even in her raggedy costume for My Fair Lady. But aside from Audrey Hepburn as style icon (which she was, as well as being a humanitarian, which often gets left out, and a member of the French Resistance, which is just badass), she is everything she was famed for being in this picture. She is elegant, she is coy, she is winsome, she is elfin... she basically just seems like the kind of girl you really would like to spend an afternoon running around Rome with. Gregory Peck starts out delightfully sleazy, before Anya's loveableness appeals to his better nature. I guess you could in some ways call her a forerunner of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but the film handles it so much better than the usual fare. Yes, she is a spirit yearning to be free who breaks down the crusty curmudgeon's walls and ultimately gets him to do the right things in life, but rather than Hepburn bearing the brunt of Peck's character development, Peck provides Hepburn's character with growth of her own. He is the means to her end - she has run away, seeking one small adventure, and his motive for helping her is purely selfish, but while his growth is moral, he provides her with personal growth. The movie is not about him, but about both of them. He gives her a taste of freedom, she gives him a taste of decorum. Neither has complete function without the other, and I think that's this movie's greatest strength. I would definitely say watch this movie. At the very least, you'll have seen a charming film where the hero and the heroine do not throw caution to the wind and run off together (a rarity), or have seen some stunning costume design. And keep a special eye out for the Mouth of Truth scene - that was improvised.

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