Life Isn’t Always What One Likes

Posted: 17/09/2013 in 1953

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I have been slowly and methodically considering what my review will look like for William Wyler’s masterpiece of a romantic comedy Roman Holiday for about a week now.  This is one of those films in which, the more I simmer over it, the more I really and truly do love it.  I have been reminded by some that the story is familiar and simple, but I will continue to remind them in return that there is nothing familiar and typical about William Wyler’s work, much less when he pairs together a dynamic duo the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on screen.  There is so much to like about this piece that I hardly know where to start.  Therefore, allow me to make a case for the greatness of Roman Holiday by citing a few highlights.

First of all, this film contains a very minimal score.  Mr. Wyler manages to drop us into these character’s worlds without using scoring to manipulate our thoughts about them.  Mr. Wyler leaves it to the actors themselves to move the audience, and on that note alone, this is a job well done.  Where the actors don’t manage to move the audience, the city of Rome most certainly does.  This is one of those rare films where the city that it is shot in becomes an important supporting actor.  So beautiful is this Rome, that audiences will want to return to Trevi Fountain as quickly as possible to relive it.  Sure the cinematography is wonderful, but the camera does a wonderful job of catching just the right shots of Rome at just the right time to get the viewer to want to fall in love with the city as they are falling in love with the characters.

Speaking of the characters, the acting in Roman Holiday is superb.  The big story in this film is none other than newcomer Audrey Hepburn, and rightfully so.  Playing Princess Ann (aka “Smitty”) she takes us on a journey that makes one contemplate an existence typified by a longing for things impossible to obtain.  We feel her longing, we feel her yearning, and we feel her exhilaration with everything new that she experiences.  Welcome Miss Hepburn to the race for Best Actress of the year!  So far we have a field of women that steal our hearts for various reasons.  Truthfully, I think Miss Hepburn steals said hearts better than anyone else in the race this year.  Her enjoyment of things as simple as a haircut becomes our enjoyment.  Her fears become our fears.  We have seen several quality lead performances by women this year, but Miss Hepburn’s might just be the one that stands out from the rest in the end.  Not to be outdone is Gregory Peck.  Although this is Audrey Hepburn’s film, Mr. Peck serves up some of the best dramatic scenes of the film.  It is a shame that he isn’t getting the attention that he deserves for this piece of art, as it is Mr. Peck that helps this film to transcend the romantic comedy genre.  Again, some of the very best scenes in the film belong to him.  And while we’re heaping praise upon these lead actors, it must be said that Eddie Albert also gives a great supporting performance.  He is the comic relief throughout, and his important (and very likable) piece of the puzzle rounds out one of the best ensembles we’ve seen all year.

I finally want to thank Mr. Wyler for never insulting my intelligence.  Roman Holiday is an intelligent man’s romantic comedy, and that’s what sets it apart from the rest.  Without serving up any spoilers, let me at least say that Wyler very smartly draws this film to a close, and it’s his work behind the camera that make those final scenes truly special.  Let us just say that this is an ending that will be discussed and debated for years to come, and one must admit that very few romantic comedies could stir up such debate.  I personally think that the ending is a perfect 10 landing, and much credit must be given to the director for such an accomplishment (as well as to the writers of this beautiful original screenplay).  I will likely be running it through my head for many years to come, and I will look forward to later joining in the discussion.  Bravo!

**** ~AOS

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