Andrew’s review published on Letterboxd:
Trigger Warning!- Numerous scenes of drinking and smoking!
After watching the documentary on Audrey Hepburn I wanted to watch a movie that she starred in. Roman Holiday, to me, seemed like a no-brainer. This was Audrey's big breakout role that she won an Oscar for. I'm sure glad I did because this film was funny, heartwarming and tragic.
The premise for the movie is that Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn), who is on a royal tour, chafes at her duty. She yearns to experience all that Rome has to offer but her royal retinue forbids it. Her doctor gives her a sleeping sedative but that doesn't stop Ann from sneaking out anyways. She ends up sleeping on a sidewalk when a passerby, journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), sees her. He thinks she's drunk so he takes Ann back to his apartment so she won't be picked up by the police. Bradley, who works at the American News Service, was supposed to interview Ann the next day. He oversleeps so when he arrives at work his boss, Hennessy (Hartley Power), is none too happy. However, once Bradley realizes the sleeping girl was the princess, he tells Hennessy that he has the story of the century. He rings up his friend Irving (Eddie Albert), a photographer, and they plan to get a big piece for their exclusive story. Ann, who goes by Anya, is freed from her restrictive life and wants to experience Rome as an ordinary person. She is taken on a tour around the city by Bradley and Albert. Unbeknownst to the princess, the two knows who she is and wants to write their exclusive article about her.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie. It has such a clear, distinct feel by director William Wyler, despite using a premise that has been done over and over again. The script by by Dalton Trumbo, Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton had me laughing out loud through the nearly two hour runtime. I was constantly smiling as Ann saw the world through fresh eyes. I think my biggest gripe with it was the romance between Ann and Bradley happened rather quickly. There was some romantic chemistry between Hepburn and Peck, but that wasn't a result of the script but their performances.
The end of the movie though, my god, was a punch in the gut. When Bradley drops the princess off near her hotel she tells him not to look back or follow her. In the last scene, after the press corps, Bradley lingers around after in hope that Ann will come out to see him. When she doesn't he slowly walks always and right at the end of the hall he looks back, waits a few more seconds, then walks away. The callback to their scene in the car was heartbreaking. To me, like most stories of star-crossed lovers, the two can never have a happy ending.
End of spoilers!
When I watched the documentary on Aubrey, the talking heads mentioned how Audrey is unique and unlike any other actress at the time. I felt that while watching the documentary but, seeing her in the movie, it is on a different level. Hepburn has this spirt about her, I'm not sure how to describe it. I just can't quite put my finger on it, it could be her beautiful smile or the way her eyes always sparkle. It may be her innate spirit with a pure, beautiful soul.
Gregory Peck also deserves high praise as well. I've only seen him in To Kill a Mockingbird and he does a great as Joe Bradley. He just oozes charm and his comedic timing is impeccable. Also, that eyebrow arch, it added this charisma to journalist. He looks a bit like Sherlock Holmes to me and his arched eyebrow sealed the deal for me. It's a shame that he never got to play the detective. His partner in crime, played by Eddie Albert did an excellent job as well. The way he and Peck played off each other was a lot of fun, especially during the comedic moments. Albert also seemed to be having the time of his life which brightened up any scene that he was in.
On the technical side, everything was well done. The costume, hair and makeup were all great. I loved the suit Peck was wearing and whoever cut Audrey's hair did an impeccable job. The cinematography was very good as well, especially the moment when Ann was riding through town on a scooter. It made an already funny scene even funnier.
Roman Holiday was able to capture lightning in a bottle with an uplifting and funny story which helped lift my spirits. The masterful performances by Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert elevated an already great script. Audrey's Oscar win was well deserved and I hope to view more of her work in the future. For anyone who is a fan of Audrey and Peck, this is a must watch. If you're looking for a funny pick me up movie this is a good choice as well. I highly, highly recommend it!!
P.S. I love the poster art, especially Bradley's terrified look!