There's nothing major to figure out here, it's just a wonderfully made and absolutely lovely film. And the ending is simply perfect.
Well now, this is an absolutely lovely film. It’s full of charm, and wit, and grace. It’s like a relic of a previous age of filmmaking, so full of life and yet so oddly sad. It’s a simple film, there’s nothing to deduce or figure out, but it still had me on the edge of my seat at times. The entire first part made me uncomfortable in the best way. There’s something really great about a film without pretense, something that’s not trying to be anything more than what it is. This film is absolutely one of the best examples that I’ve seen, completely unconcerned with its own absurdity and yet at the same time reveling in it. It’s a marvelous thing.
Our story begins with a princess from an unnamed European country, who has recently arrived in Rome at the end of a long tour of capitals, and is definitely feeling worse the wear. She’s completely worn out, to the point of nervous collapse, fed up of the rigorous schedules and duties that her entire life is dictated by. After being given a drug to make her happy, and sleep, she sneaks out of the palace hoping to get to spend a few hours among regular people. The drug turns out to be much stronger than she imagined though, and she ends up falling asleep on a street bench. Along comes a reporter, who is supposed to interview her the next morning, but who doesn’t recognize her. He doesn’t really want to deal with what he assumes is a drunk girl, but on the other hand he’s too much of a gentleman to leave her lying on the street so he takes her home and puts her to bed. The next day he realizes who she is and decides to spend the day with her, in order to file a story that will pay him five thousand dollars. He rounds up his best friend, a photographer, and they proceed to take the princess around Rome, showing her the day of her dreams.
I have to say, Gregory Peck is not my favorite leading man. Much as in Spellbound, I think I enjoyed this film in spite of his acting, rather than because of it. There’s just something… lacking in him, I can’t quite explain it. Certainly he’s handsome enough, but he just doesn’t have the intelligence or wit of the great actors from this period. There’s a certain humor that’s mixed in with the looks of an actor like Cary Grant, for example, that’s just completely missing from Peck. Audrey Hepburn, on the other hand, what else can I really say about her? She’s luminous, she radiates brilliance in every movement, every word, every look. She’s maybe the best actress of all time, I’m completely smitten with her. She’s great as usual here, overcoming the almost total lack of chemistry she has with Peck. The rest of the cast does a great job as well, there’s no weak link here. I especially enjoyed Paolo Carlini, who plays a barber that cuts Audrey Hepburn’s hair. He is hilarious in the little screen time he gets, especially when we see him combing his hair back before jumping into a fight with some secret service men on the docks.
This film is full of wonderful moments. The scene where Audrey Hepburn gets her haircut and Carlini keep arguing with her about how short she wants it. The part where she hits a secret service agent over the head with a guitar. Every scene involving Peck trying to get his photographer friend to stop talking and play it cool. And especially the scene where Audrey Hepburn takes control of the scooter they’ve been riding on and proceeds to wreak havoc across Rome. They are all great, but the ending is what really makes this film special. It’s absolutely perfect, avoiding all the cliches that typically come with a Hollywood movie. It’s hard to discuss it too much without ruining it, but it is just so bittersweet and silent. This is a film that could easily go off the rails into absurdity, but the ending keeps it firmly within the realm of the possible. It makes such a strong statement about real life, and the choices we are sometimes forced to make despite going against everything we want. It’s such a nice moment, and it really made the whole film for me.