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Roman Holiday


#385 - Roman Holiday
William Wyler, 1953



While doing an international tour that finishes in Rome, a European princess ends up in the company of an American journalist.

It's not hard to be cynical and look at a decades-old film through a critical lens as if to challenge its reputation and see if it can truly overcome personal skepticism and prove naysayers wrong. Roman Holiday is coming up on six decades of existence and its premise does come across as very familiar - early on in the film I thought to myself, "Hey, this sounds an awful lot like It Happened One Night." Granted, that film does feature a superficially similar plot with its wealthy heiress escaping her stifling upper-class existence and ending up going on a journey of self-discovery with the help of a middle-class journalist who initially intends to take advantage of the situation in order to boost his fledgling career and make some money. However, it's a testament to all involved that Roman Holiday just comes across as noticeably similar instead of shamelessly derivative.

A lot of what makes Roman Holiday work has to do with the considerable talent of both its leads. Audrey Hepburn makes for the ideal choice to play the female lead with her combination of outward sophistication and inner rebelliousness helping to fill out her heiress character nicely, while Gregory Peck's earthy American charm and honest appearance certainly give his seemingly seedy character a bit more depth than you'd expect. The rest of the cast is serviceable enough with its combination of stuffy royalists and bohemian Italians, but it makes sense since it really is all about the two leads as they jet-set around Rome dealing with both their growing connection built on falsehoods and their internal conflicts regarding the maintenance of said falsehoods. It's compelling enough and the location shooting in Rome is done reasonably well by veteran director Wyler and it builds up to a great and not-entirely-predictable conclusion. I can definitely respect its status as a classic romance, and so should you.