5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Extra! Character walks off screen for love struck waitress!,
This review is from: The Purple Rose Of Cairo [VHS] (VHS Tape)
During the Great Depression Cecilia (Mia Farrow) is trapped in a dreary life with a soulless husband (Danny Aiello), so she escapes to the movies. There she becomes hook on "The Purple Rose of Cairo," which she watches so many times that Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), the dashing archaeologist of the film becomes so distracted he decides to leave the film and walks off the screen into Cecilia's life. Suddenly Cecilia is happy, even if Tom is just a fictional character. Meanwhile, Hollywood is in an uproar as other Tom Baxters are threatening to walk out of the picture as well, leaving it to actor Gil Shepherd to try and reign in the character he created.
Some critics dismissed this Woody Allen film as a flip on Buster Keaton's silent classic "Sherlock Jr.," a surreal fantasy about a film projectionist and amateur detective who climbs into a movie. But so what if the idea is not new? The chief charm here is what Allen does with the idea. The romantic triangle between Cecilia, Tom and Gil is pleasant enough, but for me what is hysterical is what is going on back at the theater with the characters in the movie who are waiting to find out what happens. Henry (Edward Herrmann) is worried they will turn off the projector and make everything dark, while Jason (John Wood) insists the movie is really about him so they do not need Tom to come back. Rita (Deborah Rush) points out she is rich and does not have to put up with this nonsense while the maid, Delilah (Annie Joe Edwards) objects to people being in the wrong reel. Of course the time comes for Cecilia to go through the looking glass to join Larry (Van Johnson) and the Countess (Zoe Caldwell) at the swank nightclub, where Kitty Haynes (Karen Akers) is quite upset to find Tom with another woman. The idea that movies are truly "screen plays" that the actors play out several times a day is carried off marvelously. Meanwhile, the audiences are staying at the theater to see what happens next. The non-movie is as interesting as the real thing.
Mia Farrow actually has the Woody Allen part in this Woody Allen movie in which Woody Allen does not appear. The accent is a bit much (not as grating as her comic turn in "Radio Days"), but Cecilia is clearly a sweet soul and there is something about the way the light of the movies plays with her eyes that captures her happiness at finding the escape. Of course, reality, not to mention the Hollywood studio system, are out for money and not happiness, so that there cannot be a storybook ending. "The Purple Rose of Cairo" is more than a one-joke film, although certainly it is more streamlined that your average Allen film. Besides, despite the enticing impulse to do so, I do not see this as an indictment of Hollywood or the para-social interaction of real audiences with fictional characters. This is a charming little fantasy with enough of an element of reality to keep the dream from staying alive.