by Jeric Llanes
Is it true that “girls just want to have fun?” Can the same be said for princesses? It’s a bit hard to imagine any person of royalty finding the mundane in their lifestyle, considering that they can get pretty much anything they want, when they want. (Though, I’m just a simple plebe from California, so I wouldn’t really know.) But I’m sure being a princess does entail its fair share of duties and requirements. Or simply put, it’s a job. And we all know how tedious work can be…
Fortunately for us all, we get the chance to take a holiday from time to time. And in the case of this classic film, that holiday happens to take place in Rome! Making her way on screen in her first major role, the iconic Audrey Hepburn stars as Princess Ann, a young woman who grows tired of her diplomatic role as she tours across the European capitals. When given the opportunity to escape her tight schedule, Ann sneaks away in the night and gets lost in the city. Later, she comes across American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), who sees this moment as a chance to get an inside scoop with the Princess and write the story of a lifetime. The only problem is, they both have to keep their identities on the down-low. Ann doesn’t want to be recognized as the missing Princess, and Joe certainly can’t tell Ann that he’s a reporter out to exploit this opportunity!
While it’s true that this film is considered a Romantic-Comedy, I appreciated the relatively slow buildup of the relationship between Ann and Joe. This isn’t so much a lovey-dovey romance where the lead characters fall in love at first sight, and there isn’t the overplayed twist where they hate each other at first and suddenly make up by the end of the movie. Neither Ann nor Joe is out to find love at the beginning of the story. That was never their dramatic need. Ann just needed to get-out and have a day to herself, while Joe was in need of getting an interview with the Princess. The comedy in this is when the two share the screen together, Ann is trying to escape her job while Joe is more or less working the entire time he’s with her. The characters are practically complete opposites of each other in terms of their dramatic need.
And because of that, the romance felt organic and unforced. Both Hepburn and Peck do a fantastic job of portraying believable characters, and the chemistry between the two was natural. Hepburn, in particular, shows off her range as an actress in a performance that won her an Academy Award. There are moments where she plays the kind diplomat that meets with other world leaders, and there are times where she whines and gives off orders like you would imagine a princess would. But what really impressed me was how she was able to subtly maintain these royal qualities while also becoming a curious wanderer in a new city. Her performance certainly gives way for brief “fish out of water” moments, which is what adds to the charm and comedy of the film.
There’s not much of a plot after the initial set-up in the film. When Joe agrees to escort Ann around the city, the focus is on a series of shots and sequences that portray the beauty of Rome. For the most part, the film is shot at real locations (which is proudly mentioned during the opening credits of the film), and you get the feeling that we too are getting a brief tour of the famous capital. Ann and Joe just seem to go out for a fun day, with no real sense of direction moving forward as far as the plot concerns.
And that’s one thing we can take away from this classic film. It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine and complexity of our daily lives, that we never really get the chance to just go out and enjoy what’s around us. That’s certainly the case for the characters in this film. They just needed to get out for a bit. They needed a holiday. A chance to forget everything and to take a moment to get lost into a world that has so much to offer. The montage of scenes in Rome feels more like a random compilation with no connections, but it’s perfectly in line with the tone and theme of the film.
This classic doesn’t try to amaze you with a stunning plot. Neither does it try to create super dramatic and complex characters. But what we have here are simple, yet genuine acting performances from two icons, and a story that is universally relatable. Beautifully shot and overall fun to watch, this is an amusing movie that is sure to charm all audiences!
Where to Watch this Film: Roman Holiday (1953) is available for rent/purchase on YouTube, Amazon Video, VUDU, Google Play, iTunes, and Netflix DVD.