Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Purple Rose Of Cairo Has The Magic Of Movies Brought To Life

It is so much fun when a movie has a unique concept at the core of its story and it manages to fully utilize the creative potential behind said unique concept. Such is the case with Woody Allen's 1985 motion picture The Purple Rose Of Cairo, which feels similar to the director's 2011 effort Midnight In Paris (my personal favorite Woody Allen joint) in how it takes a very high-concept central idea and executes it in a more subdued character-centric manner. For Midnight In Paris, the heightened idea that drove the story was time travel, while The Purple Rose Of Cairo focuses on a character in a movie leaping off into the real world.

That fictional character is Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), an archeologist and supporting character in the film-within-a-film The Purple Rose Of Cairo. He's a character that frequent moviegoer Cecilia (Mia Farrow) finds fascination in, though the idea of her being obsessed with a character on the silver screen is not a new concept considering how enamored she is with the world of film. She uses the world of movies as a way to escape her troubling life, one where she has difficulty keeping a job and suffers under the hand of her abusive and cheating husband. And then, one day, just as she's rewatching The Purple Rose Of Cairo for the umpteenth time, Tom Baxter decides to jump off the screen and pursue his infatuation with Cecilia.

As you can imagine, the fact that a fictional character is leaving a movie he features heavily in leaves the various personnel behind the film, and Gil Shepard (also played by Jeff Daniels) the actor who plays Tom, in a frenzy. Meanwhile, Cecilia tries to get Tom accustomed to the real world, which leads to numerous sequences of the two together that are heavy on sweet romanticism and exceptional humor. It's a really smart move for The Purple Rose Of Cairo to bypass through anyone in the story having reluctance in believing these crazy events are happening (Gil, for instance, needs very little convincing to come down and help out in this matter), which leaves more room for the high-concept story and the well-realized characters to mingle and create plenty of entertainment in the process.

Another clever concept to be found in The Purple Rose Of Cairo is making Tom Baxter the embodiment of the can-do spirit itself, a fellow bursting with enthusiasm over the newfound environment he's found himself in. Pairing him up with Cecilia, a person whose been browbeaten by the trials and tribulations of the real world, makes for an interesting dynamic between the two lead characters, while setting the tale in The Great Depression has Tom's never-wavering sense of optimism make him even more of an unwitting outsider.

Jeff Daniels, in only his third feature film role, seems to be heaving a blast playing Tom Baxter and scenes where he plays off his real-life counterpart, Gil Shepard, are highlights of the entire motion picture. Mia Farrow, meanwhile, ie exceptional playing a walking/talking human embodiment of IMDB and she manages to have great chemistry with both of Daniels characters in the movie. Meanwhile, Woody Allen gets to show his apparent wealth of knowledge in regards to this era of cinema with various parts of the writing and directing, an appreciation for this epoch of cinema that goes beyond off-hand references to the career wipeout of Fatty Arbuckle that lends an expertful hand to guide the story that's much appreciated.

Many of the most popular movies in the 20's were buoyant, perky and chipper entertainment designed to distract the masses from the economic ruin the country and so many of its residents were finding themselves in. That bouncy attitude hasn't been far from many motion pictures on the silver screen in the decades since, but Allen recognizes the importance such types of films had in the decade of the 1920's, where hardship was around every corner. Implanting that spirit into this tale of a woman looking for a way to escape her miserable life is a stroke of genius that's just one of the many ways the incredibly fun The Purple Rose Of Cairo becomes a cheerful concoction that's not at all short on brilliant inventiveness.

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