Release Date: 2nd September,1953
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert
Personal rating : 8/10
People generally look down on the ‘romantic comedy’ genre as insipid stuff. Most find it uninspiring, repetitive and in some cases too good to be true. After all, there is only so much you can do to reinvent a boy loves girl story. There are a few movies that stand out though. When Harry Met Sally, Before Sunrise-Before Sunset, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Casablanca are a few. My all time favorite rom-com though is ‘Roman Holiday’. Its greatness lies in its simplicity. There is nothing incredibly unique about the story or the characters. It is a story of friendship and fun more than anything else. What it has though is a lot of charming dialogue, the great city of Rome as a backdrop and wonderful acting by the lead pair of Hepburn and Peck.
The movie starts off in Rome, where Princess Ann (played by Hepburn) is going through the motions of being royalty. She is visibly disinterested and wants to experience the city without the shackles of propriety and good conduct. After taking in a little too much of a drug, in an inebriated state, she escapes from the palace and ends up on the streets of Rome. Joe Bradley (played by Gregory Peck) is a journalist working with the Daily American, and reporting on the Princess’ trip to Rome. He finds Ann on a bench and offers to help her get a taxi. She refuses and instead ends up at Bradley’s apartment where he finds her behavior less than amusing. It is only when he goes back to meet the editor of his paper the next morning, that he realizes that the girl back in his apartment is the Princess.
Sensing a golden opportunity to get close and personal with the Princess herself, Bradley rushes back to his apartment and offers to show her the city. She refuses and instead goes on a tour herself, reveling in her new found freedom, getting a pixie haircut and enjoying an ice cream. Bradley ‘accidentally’ meets her on the Spanish Steps and tags along with her for company. Bradley’s friend (and photographer) Irving Radovich (played brilliantly by Eddie Albert) also accompanies them on their adventure taking pictures and being a source of great humor in general. The ‘mouth of truth’ scene and the ‘scooter ride’ scene have now become iconic and show the innocence of Hepburn’s character and her longing for such simple joys. As the movie progresses, Anya shares her truth with Bradley and they fall in love. The secret service though, eventually finds the Princess and escorts her away. Although 50s Hollywood was into ‘dream-selling’ kind of stories, this movie handled the romance between a Princess and commoner with lot of practicality and grace. Realizing that there is no future for their relationship, neither Anya nor Bradley pursue it further, they do not get overly melodramatic, nor do they take drastic steps. Anya returns back to her royal life while Bradley returns to his job.
In a heartwarming climax, Princess Anya addresses the media, a part of which are both Bradley and Irving. She indirectly thanks Bradley for the entire adventure without giving away anything to anyone, except a lot of love for him. Irving gives her the pictures he took of her during their Roman Holiday the previous day and the movie ends on a contemplative note.
Audrey Hepburn won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of a disenchanted Princess and universal acclaim from critics as well. It is impossible not to love her style, joie de vivre and grace in this movie. Although Peck complements her beautifully, I always felt he looked too old beside her. That is something that always threw me off about their romance. Although, the open ended climax, leads me to believe that, maybe what they had was not love but a great genuine friendship. And maybe, they realized that sooner than the audience.
To anyone who likes old Hollywood movies, the clean humor, the sharp dialogue, this movie is a delight to watch. It is important not to forget that this movie is almost 60 years old and has inspired scores of movies. So, yes, the novelty might not be there. And yet, it remains one of my most favorite movies 🙂