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The Purple Rose of Cairo

Year: 1985
Studio: Orion Pictures Corporation
Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Robrt Greenhut
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello
Spoiler
Spoiler!

A lot of directors make this film, their ode to the medium of cinema. In Allen's case, his film is a parable about how the characters can be so familiar to us they seem like real people who could step out of the screen and sweep us off our feet to enchanting places to face excitement, intrigue and romance.

That's just what happens to meek waitress and movie fan Cecilia (Farrow). Living a life of quiet desperation and poverty at the height of the Great Depression with uncaring husband Monk (Aiello), Cecelia's only escape is to the movies. She's already seen The Purple Rose of Cairo over and over, starring the dashing Gil Shepherd (Daniels) as Tom Baxter, an adventurer who joins a group of New York socialites after arriving from Egypt to look for the titular long lost jewel.

All of a sudden, during a screening like any other, Tom looks out at the screen at Cecilia, telling her he's amazed how many times she's been to see it, stepping off the screen into the audience to talk to her and leaving the movie unable to go on, his co-stars complaining bitterly and entreating him to return to the story.

Instead, Tom tells Cecilia he's in love with her and wants them to run away together, living in hiding while she decides whether to leave her brutish husband and go with him.

Meanwhile, as the studio bosses and exhibitors wring hands trying to get Baxter back into the movie so it can finish its theatrical run, Shepherd himself goes to New Jersey to plead with Cecilia to urge Baxter back into the movie because of the damage it could do to his career.

When he does so, he starts to get captivated by Cecilia the same way his character has, and he too asks her to run away with him to Los Angeles for a life of parties and good living.

Cecilia has to choose between a real person and a movie character (something of another metaphor), and Allen goes downbeat for the ending when it turns out she made the tragically wrong choice.

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