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RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
• Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years
• Remembering Audrey
• Rome With A Princess
• Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist
• Restoring Roman Holiday
• Behind the Gates: Costumes
• Paramount in the ‘50s – Retrospective Featurette
I know what you’re thinking, but this movie’s actually not about my annual Ninth Gate commemoration. Just some old romp in Italy’s capital.
Gregory Peck. Audrey Hepburn. Eddie Albert. The city of Rome.
It’s easy to think of Roman Holiday as William Wyler’s return to comedy, or Audrey Hepburn’s feature debut, or an exemplar of location shooting, but there is in fact an entertaining movie beneath all that stuff, heartwarming and gooey yet done with a light touch. But you’ve seen the film; you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the film, then please accept my personal recommendation to put it ahead of Step Up in your Netflix queue. You can experience Step Up 2: The Streets without having seen the original, is what I’m saying.
Hepburn’s Ann, a popular heir to an unnamed Eastern European monarchy, is spirited through sundry capitals in the hopes that relations can be improved and the youth can make a difference and I think there’s a Trade Federation involved somewhere. In a groundbreaking twist, the young royal has no interest in diplomacy and instead wants to experience This Thing You Call Fun. Miffed that her handlers give her sedatives instead of a little spending money and the freedom to use it, Ann hops out one night and runs into newsman Joe Bradley (Peck), who finds no choice but to help the penniless, pacified princess.
If you skipped the first 15 minutes of Roman Holiday and started watching during the “drugged white woman in the back of a three-wheeled wine truck on a nocturnal voyage to the countryside” sequence, you wouldn’t suspect heartwarmth to follow. At least not the kind that this film delivers. Same situation with the hardcore guitar-smashing Six Sides of Steel XScape Match on an Italian barge toward the end of the second act: the characters were arrested earlier for Vespa violations (has Patricia Piccinini used that as a title yet?), but the wrestle on the vessel is certamente approvazione, if not by the police then by the film as a whole. That’s just the kind of movie Roman Holiday is: the big stuff is harmless, fun, and funny, while the most nuanced moments can jeopardize everyone’s eggshell emotions.
For me, it works splendidly. The movie takes its time setting up not just the two protagonists but the worlds they inhabit, and all the social mores therein. So later when reality sets in and “Smitty” understands that it’s time to reclaim her former status, she’s doing so from a comfortable, considered position. No chases, no fights, no thing to pressure or force a decision. Those were the fun part! The truth – the movie’s central sadness – goes unsaid, and a simple hug between Hepburn and Peck is where the music swells and the audience cries.
Wyler’s direction takes our heroes through luscious locales, and Dalton Trumbo’s script (see below) supplies the witty lines, but of course it’s all about the stars, and they are as good as you remember. There’s really nothing new to say on that point. I want to make special mention, however, of the thankless sidekick: Eddie Albert as Bruno Kirby as Irving Radovich. He’s present in most of the moments big and small, and adds a secular sense of cool completely apart from the godlike presence shared by those above-the-title folk. Anyway, this movie’s not bad.
There are certain things that matter, and I will tell them to you. The film looks good, as does its packaging. There’s no commentary. Included is a second disc full of featurettes; they are legion and cover topics from the production to the restoration to Dalton Trumbo’s legacy. That last one is especially nice, as Trumbo wrote the movie but was unfortunately blacklisted and even sent to (holy shit) prison in (HOLY SHIT) Kentucky. This caused original director Frank Capra to leave the project and other writers to get credit on the film. The Academy finally gave Trumbo (and by Trumbo I mean his widow) an Oscar for Roman Holiday in 1993, thereby using up all the judgment they were planning to spend on the following year’s Best Picture voting.
9.0 out of 10