Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen) 1985
There are always opposing forces in nature: there is yin and yang, light and dark, good and evil, etc. Everyone at some point has the “guilty pleasure“. You know, there is some song or movie or whatever that you should have every reason to hate, but for some reason you enjoy it. Guilty pleasures get a lot of attention but not so many people bring up the opposing force. I haven’t really heard a name for it even so I guess I will tenatively call it the “guilty displeasure“. Those are the movies that you should have every reason to love, but you just can’t get into it. For example, I really don’t like Gone with the Wind. I admit that it is epic with gorgeous cinematography, the acting is great, and whatever you want to say about it. But I just don’t enjoy it. I’m sure if you gave me enough time and if I really thought about it I could come up with some reasons but I don’t really have the energy to do it.
Purple Rose of Cairo is a “guilty displeasure“ and I am REALLY guilty for not liking it. I read a lot of reviews and I see several sites list the best and worst Woody Allen movies and all of them list this movie as one of his crowning achievements. Some people can hate every other stereotypical Woody movie, but will still fall in love with Purple Rose. I even love Midnight in Paris, a movie which some would accuse Woody of stealing from Purple Rose (which is a crock but that’s a whole other matter). But I’ve now watched it twice and can’t fully get behind it.
Maybe I have a disagreement over the ending. Yes, I know what Woody was intending with the ending. My problem may be with the fact that for 90% of the movie we have the tone of light hearted fantasy and then for the last 10% we have harsh reality crashing down on our main character’s head. I don’t know how more people aren’t given whiplash by the strong tonal shift. Or maybe I’m still not completely sold on Jeff Daniels as Tom. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love Jeff Daniels and I actually think he gives a good performance. He still doesn’t quite have the look of suave renaissance man with gorgeous looks. I’m sure that argument could be shot down within the movie by seeing a Fred Astaire movie but like I said, guilty displeasures don’t have the best arguments in the world.
I do really love the concept of the movie and some of the funniest bits are when the characters still stuck in the movie are trying to figure out what to do now that one of the main characters has bolted. Mia Farrow probably gives her best performance as the always optimistic woman who is constantly getting shat on by society. Not to mention Woody Allen is once again showing his mastery in making this story work and having the audience be completely won over by the charm of it all. This is all kinds of counter-intuitive, but I recommend people go out and watch this movie. This is some of Woody’s best work and I think anyone who hasn’t seen it will be quickly won over by its charm. This is just one of those times where my brain and my tastes aren’t on the same page.