Not rated because it was 1953. It's a 1953 romantic comedy. The worst thing in this movie is that Gregory Peck tries stealing a little girl's camera. It's played for laughs, but Mr. Film Reviewer from 2018 feels really uncomfortable in this moment. There's some real mild violence and some consumption of alcohol. Yup, I would rate this as a G if I could, but I have to label it as Not Rated.
DIRECTOR: William Wyler
The best part of having to write a 30 page research paper is that I get to revisit some classics that I haven't watched in forever. I mean, it puts my new movies on pause, but I get to watch Roman Holiday again. That's a pretty big win. The honest truth is, too, that I didn't fall in love with this movie the first time I watched it. I thought it was mighty good, but everyone told me how amazing this movie is. Maybe I wasn't ready for it at the time, but all those people were right. This movie is absolutely fantastic. On top of that, it was made by super-bro William Wyler, so I have to give some props for having a soul. It's a beautiful movie that is going to play a major part in my paper for one big reason: It's a giant tourism advertisement.
Honestly, this movie doesn't need to be set in Rome at all. It adds a ton because we get the cultural flare throughout. But narratively, there's nothing that actually grounds this movie in Rome. I know that I've seen this story before in other forms. The trope is pretty well worn. The big thing is that we get excuses to drive Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck all around Rome. I normally would complain about this for a long time, but Rome is gorgeous. This movie is kind of a financial gamble. I'm sure that the Italian tourism board picked up a lot of this check (the opening of the film starts with a disclaimer / humble brag that everything in this movie was filmed on location in Rome. Then it goes on to show stock footage of England and lots of other countries, but I get where they were going with it.) But think about it from a perspective of pushing forward another rom-com with dramatic irony as your central bit. I'm not disrespecting Roman Holiday as a lame movie with a great background, but there had to be a point where the filmmakers were thinking that the movie could have used the extra "oomph" to make it a great film. These guys didn't know that they had Roman Holiday. They had Audrey Hepburn and age-inappropriate Gregory Peck. (Why was this a way more noticeable thing in older movies? Was it a cultural thing that women married older?) You could have set this as a big city girl coming to visit the Midwest, but it is so much cooler having a princess explore Rome. I guess this is the point of my paper. Roman Holiday is a great movie when it is Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, but the central character is Rome. You can see this in the mundane moments of the film. Princess Ann doesn't fall asleep on a park bench. She falls asleep in front of ancient columns. Gregory Peck doesn't try stealing a camera from a Walgreen. He steals one from a tourist at Trevi Fountain. There are kids playing in that fountain, which makes it even better. The movie is the purpose of the travel narrative. It is mean to make you fall in love with Rome. It explains why these two fall in love so quickly. It's Rome, after all.
I gotta get a little SPOILERY because I have to talk about my favorite element of the movie as a whole. Ready? They don't end up together. The movie takes the trope and changes some fundamental elements about it. Both characters are lying to each other. Their entire coexistence is a lie. Now, we can all plumb the depths of our moral cores and simply understand that Gregory Peck is more in the wrong than Audrey Hepburn is. There's even a scene where both characters have to remind themselves that they are lying to themselves. William Wyler's pretty smart for having this scene and I would give him a big pat on the back for that moment. At the end of the day, both characters are liars and I was waiting for the dramatic irony to play the card it always does. Normally, in this situation, the girl finds out that the guy is lying and she hates him for a little bit. He does some grand gesture and proves that he loved her and is regretful for their lies only as far as to remind them that, if he hadn't have lied, none of these events would have happened and they wouldn't have fallen in love. (Is that a run-on sentence? There are too many clauses.) But it doesn't work like that. The lies are revealed and they smile at each other. I know, it is more complex than that. He does the right thing with the information he gets. He gives someone one perfect day and that's what matters. But what is even crazier is that they never end up together. They have one night. The entire movie is about a perfect day and I absolutely love that. Now, we have to add the setting to this again. The movie ends with this walkout of what appears to be the Vatican. (I could be way off. I've been to Rome a whole bunch of times, but I suck at that kind of stuff.) I'm all about conflict. I find conflict to be the interesting parts of the story. But this movie, in retrospect, is about just having the most fun day in the world. It's Ferris Bueller's Day Off if Ferris was way more chill. It's a fish out of water story and it works really well. Are all travel narratives just fish-out-of-water stories? I have to think that it is one element of it.
I love Audrey Hepburn so much, but who doesn't finish their gelato, especially after you spent most of your money getting that gelato? Okay, I'm past it. I know that Audrey Hepburn is iconic, but I kind of want to explore what makes her iconic. The Hepburn smile is a real thing. I don't know why it works so well. There's a shot near the end of the movie where she just smiles at Gregory Peck. It crushes. It's just that she screams optimistic / naive. She believes the world is going to be a great place. I mentioned that Peck is inappropriate for this role because of his age. I love Gregory Peck. Between To Kill a Mockingbird and The Omen (pretty much the same movie), he's an amazing actor and I love seeing him in stuff. But the romantic lead across from Audrey Hepburn is such a weird and uncomfortable choice. Like, the movie works in spite of this moment, but I also really have a problem with Peck and comedy. He has a few bits and they don't really land like they should. They aren't bad. I'm thinking of the scene when he is lying to his editor at the beginning about sleeping in. It's a fine scene and the tone is still fine for the movie, but the dramatic irony of knowing that the editor knows the truth is what is supposed to make it funny. I just get the vibe that Peck wanted to play it as close to the vest as he could. The same thing with all of the moments where his secret is almost revealed. Honestly, Eddie Albert, who plays Irving, is the one delivering the comedy. He's great. He's compensating. The movie isn't really zany at any moment, which makes the dance sequence all the better. It is this odd blend of drama and comedy that plays throughout the sequence. It's not quite zany, but it is the zaniest part of the movie. All this leads to the tone being just light-hearted. Honestly, it works. There are no hilarious jokes, but it is just a fun time. Ferris Bueller has gags. Roman Holiday is just a fun jaunt. But that's what I want. I can see gags completely tanking in this movie and I think it works well just to have a fun time around Rome. I guess it is like going on a fun date. That's probably what we're looking for.
I can't believe how much I loved this movie the second time I have seen it. The simultaneous embracing and breaking of expectations is what I wanted to see. Yeah, it's a shameless tourism video. But it's a great shameless tourism video and Rome is the most amazing backdrop to this whole film.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.