Saturday, October 04, 2008

16. Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)

As is you may have noticed, I’m a huge Audrey Hepburn fan. I love how she brings elegance and beauty to everything that she does, whether it be play cockney flower girl Eliza Dolittle or Holly Golightly, Truman Capote’s famous country girl turned call girl. But perhaps her most winning performance was her lead debut in Roman Holiday, wherein she plays an overprotected royal princess who one day, escapes from her world of dire duties to explore Rome, and in doing so, explore herself.

After a while or so, she falls asleep on a local bench, and passing by is newspaper reporter Joe Bradley (Greg Peck), who fails to recognise her. Being gentlemanly and chivalrous, he lets her stay the night in his apartment, even giving the royal highness his bed, whilst he settles for the less-than-comfortable surroundings of his couch. His next day at work, Joe hears that the princess has gone missing and puts two and two together and, in want of rescuing his ailing position at his job, makes a bet that her can obtain an exclusive on the Princess.
Such is the overall charm of Roman Holiday, that the scene where Hepburn and Peck dart around the streets of Italy on a Vespa scooter have been frequently copied, but never bettered. (The worst attempt to echo it was in the Lizzie McGuire Movie when Hilary [is] Duff rode around on one in Italy. Bitch.) The black-and-white cinematography is simple and pretty, and, whilst there’s never anything flashy being done, the backdrop of Rome itself is magic on screen.


Some girls are won over by the Cinderella Story, but Roman Holiday works kinda like the polar opposite of Cinderella, and I love it for that. There’s something poignant about the idea of “changing into someone else”, even if it is just for a day, especially when we’re not sure who it is that we’re meant to be in the first place. It seems that Roman Holiday is about a princess who disguises herself as an everyday person. But maybe Anya is equally confused about how to be a princess. It’s only when she sacrifices her amazing holiday and experiences, not to mention the love she’s found with Joe Bradley – that she finally becomes a true princess.

Audrey Hepburn IS this princess, from head to toe. Arguably one of the best actresses of all time, certainly one of the most beautiful, and by far my favourite, she plays Princess Anya to perfection. Hepburn depicts the Princess’ frustrations and boredom of her everyday life as well as the pure joy she finds in escaping it with such a winning charm and a gorgeous smile that you feel completely sucked into her experience. The film has, littered about it, various entertaining moments, but my favourite is when Joe and Anya visit the marble statue for the Moment of Truth, and Joe frightens Anya by pretending to get his hand stuck in it. The innocence and fear shown in Anya’s eyes by Hepburn is just so winning and sweet and the chemistry between Peck and Hepburn is brilliant; and I think it sums up the movie pretty well.

Funny, romantic, adorable and entertaining, Roman Holiday is everything that Lost in Translation never was. It’s a beautiful and touching look at what should have been but couldn’t have been, and in doing so, has great fun.


anahita said...

I LOVE this film. so incredibly cute - chic, romantic and beautiful.

and I'm glad to see you're back. I was missing this blog loads xxx

Emma said...

Oh Anahita, I'm back for good, promise! Now that we've all settled down for Uni and will probably have just one party a week, I can focus on what's really important.

The film blog!

Er, I meant homework!

Catherine said...

Have you seen Only You, the romcom starring Robert Downey Jr and Marisa Tomei? It's an enjoyably sweet little romp (Bonnie Hunt is hysterical as the stock 'best friend' role) and I'd really recommend it, especially in light of this post. Most of the action takes place in Rome and there's even a scene where the two main characters re-enact the scene from Roman Holiday where Peck pretends to get his hand caught in the statue's mouth. See it if you haven't already!

Emma said...

Thanks for the recommendation Catherine. I've never seen it, though I'm a fan of both actors and it sounds really cute, so I'll keep an eye out for it!

anahita said...

oooh, sorry to butt in, but I LOVE Only You. Me and my dad watch it together the entire's of the best rom coms ever!!

Emma said...

That's so cute! Will definitely look for a download of it online. *nods*

Patryk said...

"(...)he lets her stay the night in his apartment, even giving the royal highness his bed, whilst he settles for the less-than-comfortable surroundings of his couch."

Hey, it wasn't like that! I think you should rewatch the movie ;D

Marcy said...

I love, love, love Roman Holiday. I'm glad it's one of your favorite films.

You're right on Hepburn. Her performance in Roman Holiday is truly fantastic. But I've always loved Peck's performance a little more. The final scene breaks my heart.

I'll admit, I really like The Lizzie McGuire Movie. I like Only You quite a bit too. How can I resist Italy on film? But unfortunately, neither film are as memorable and enchanting as Roman Holiday.

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Sara said...

Thanks, I'm a Hepburn fan too but haven't seen this one. Nice review.

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