Roman Holiday ★★★★

The Criterion Challenge 
8. A romance film

A classic and very influential romantic comedy. Roman Holiday sees a bored and sheltered princess (Audrey Hepburn) escape her guardians and fall in love with an American newsman (Gregory Peck) in Rome.

An incredibly easy and feel good watch that cemented Audrey Hepburn as a star. A charming, frequently comedic narrative and a well shot and immersive location setting for these two characters make their way through as they both hold back a secret from one another. Though it may be slightly repetitive and tick off a lot of the genre traits, it has to be noted that it was a pioneer of these familiar cliches.

The film breezes through its just under 2 hour runtime with ease. Technically it is a traditional ‘hero saves princess’ narrative as well as a ‘fish out of water’ tale that despite taking place solely in reality has a definite fairy tale like atmosphere to the proceedings. After being taken back to his apartment after running away from her busy schedule and obsessively monitored lifestyle and then feeling the effects of her sleep medication. The next day the pair begin a fun filled trip through Rome leading to screwball slapstick comedy escapades and entertaining traditional romantic sequences. As mentioned the structure can be a little repetitive but the frequent new locations and sheer upbeat attitude overshadows the structure.

The fact that each of the pair are hiding a huge secret from the other (though Joe knows Ann is the real princess), adds a looming inevitability and tragedy, as you know the relationship simply can’t work, or the manipulative money grabbing scheme of newspaper reporter Joe, to get an ‘exclusive’ insight into her personality and lifestyle. 

The location of Rome is vibrant, brimming with life and personality. The camerawork is very natural and grounded so the immersion level and grounded look at the various businesses, hustle and bustle of its inhabitants really also helps emphasise Ann’s contrasting lifestyle. The detailed, larger gargantuan and ancient architecture, barge dance and the smaller apartment complexes really help cover all the aspects of Rome.

Gregory Peck easily delivers the smooth talking and charming leading man role well. His arc and personality traits may be familiar but it is effective and genuine here. Audrey Hepburn is an absolute joy to watch. Beautiful, incredibly sweet and innocently rebellious (somehow she make it possible). Both actors nail the dramatic and emotional moments together and have a genuine feeling chemistry.

Roman Holiday certainly earns its classic status. Though it may be a slightly repetitive and familiar when watching nowadays. It’s charming personality, engaging and very likeable leads and fantastic location setting easily make it a trip worth taking.

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