Few films, if any, have so accurately and lovingly observed all the reasons we go to the movies. If an alien being asked us why we humans make and watch movies, Woody Allen’s sweet, fantastical and ultimately devastating The Purple Rose of Cairo would be the best answer you could give them. Cecilia (Mia Farrow) is a mousy, Depression-era waitress in New York who likes to slip into the movie theater after work and become absorbed into worlds far more glamorous, seductive and simple than hers. She sees one film, “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, so many times that eventually, it’s dashing main character, Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels, at his very best) notices her in the audience, stops mid-scene and steps off screen and into the real world. This simple, magical setup gives way to a funny, poignant exploration of love and idealism, and how the real world and our fantasies coexist and mingle. Allen is at his most unassuming and wise here, letting his deceivingly light premise evolve into something profoundly moving and sad without pushing it in any one direction. With an abusive husband at home (Danny Aiello) and the Depression all around her, it’s only a matter of time before Cecilia is pinched and her movie romance has to face the reality it’s trying to (and can’t) exist in. We go to the movies to escape, to relax, to forget, to pass the time, to go places far beyond our reach. But mostly, we go to feel the things we rarely, if ever, feel outside the cocoon of a darkened theater. The Purple Rose of Cairo is an impossible fantasy, silly even. But all narrative films are, intoxicatingly so, and Allen’s creation understands this more than most.



May 09, 1985


Woody Allen


Woody Allen


Orion Pictures Corporation


Fantasy, Comedy, Romance




82 minutes