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The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) is a fantastic movie written and directed by Woody Allen. It won the Golden Globe award for best screenplay and was also nominated for an Oscar.

The heroine is the lovely Cecilia (Mia Farrow), a clumsy but endearing waitress living in the midst of the depression. To escape her abusive and neglectful husband and the unhappiness in her life, she retreats into the world of the silver screen. The romanticised movies of the thirties provided an escape into a world of glamour, exotic travel and perfect kisses. The picture currently playing at Cecilia's local theatre is The Purple Rose of Cairo - with the dashing Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) as the movie's good-hearted adventurer.

When Cecilia finds herself trapped - unable to return to her depressing life, yet unable to find the courage to change it - she sits in the movie theatre for five consecutive runs of the picture. Baxter, however, interupts the film to notice Cecilia - and steps off the screen to be with her. Baxter's actor flies out to the town, as this "escaped Baxter" threatens to ruin his career. And of course, everybody has something to say about this escapee, including the other "characters", the producer, the police, the movie-goers, and Cecilia's husband.

Although the plot sounds a bit far-fetched, the movie is very successful in delivering a consistent theme. As in many of Allen's movies, the ending does not particularly warm the heart, and shows us a rather bleak view of "reality". It reveals the illusions and ideals we grasp to motivate ourselves through life. For Cecilia, her renewed belief in courage and true love makes her leave her abusive husband at the end - even though Allen later portrays those ideals to be as fleeting as the perfect lover. It's a movie that's easy to simultaneously love and hate, because it shows us something so true and yet so sad. To be watched only when you are able to laugh at yourself and keep your optimism - but highly recommended.

"...Ultimately we always have to pick real life..."

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