The Purple Rose of Cairo

4 Jul


Written and directed by Woody Allen, The Purple Rose of Cairo tells the tale of a movie character who bursts out of the screen and falls in love with cinema goer Cecilia (Mia Farrow).

Set in depression era New Jersey, the film initially shows Cecilia working at a diner where she is disliked by the manager as she isn’t particularly good at her job. After we see her being jeered at work, we then discover she is in an abusive relationship with her husband Monk (Danny Aiello).

Wanting to escape from it all, she starts making regular visits to the movie theatre to see the same film several times. That film is The Purple Rose of Cairo. In it, there is a character called Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels). The character catches Cecilia’s eye and, bizarrely, after her fifth visit she catches his. Tom Baxter breaks the fourth wall and steps right out of the cinema screen to talk to her. They begin to spend a lot of time together and fall in love (awww).


Understandably, this bizarre event has left the movie world aghast. Most amusingly, the characters within Tom Baxter’s movie are dumbfounded. There are some amusing exchanges in which characters are so perplexed they start complaining about having wandered into the wrong reel of the film and not quite knowing what is going in.

There is also a perplexing turn when the actor who plays Tom Baxter, Gil Shepherd (obviously also played by Jeff Daniels) gets a call telling him his character has just walked right out of a film. This creates the surreal situation in which the actor and the character now both live very much in the real world, as completely separate entities.

Such touches are conceived and applied well. I did feel that some of the character-confused-by-the-real-world shtick threatened to wear thin, but as this is a short movie there is just about enough material to stop it becoming boring.


Ultimately I felt The Purple Rose of Cairo was a good movie that didn’t quite live up to it’s potential. The characters are each likeable and the performances are from the main cast are all good. For me though, I’d liked more time spent on character development. What we’re left with is a scattering of good, genuinely creative ideas that feel undercooked. Sadly, I also found the end was unsatisfying.



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