I’ll level with you guys–it’s been a tough year. Who hasn’t had it tough? For me, it’s family stuff, car stuff, money stuff, and don’t even get me started on the election. Ugh. After a while life begins to feel colorless and closed-in, which can be dangerous or at least supremely stinky, and the best thing to do is to leave it behind for a while. In the words of Ludwig von Drake, “Go anywhere, but go, or you’ll go nuts.”
So one day, I went.
On Monday my guys stayed home while I took in a viewing of Roman Holiday at the State Theater in Auburn, hosted by my friends on the museum staff. Not only was the movie geek in me itching to see Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on the big screen, but the State is where my husband and I had our first date in 2002. That was when the theater still had two screens and the decor was straight out of the seventies. It’s since been restored to its former Art Deco glory, and it looks fantastic. So yeah, I was psyched.
I kinda expected to find gelato when I walked in, ’cause, you know, Rome. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a few of the staff members sporting pillbox hats and bearing cigarette trays brimming with fun-sized candy. Popcorn was calling my name, though, so I headed for concessions. About a dozen hellos later, I found a seat in an empty row and settled in. There were more people in the center section, but space comes at a premium in my world, so I felt the need for elbow room. It was good.
Speaking of which, I think we were all feeling rather pampered and luxuriant. One gentleman was so comfortable, he fell asleep. Head back and snoring, at that. His wife kept poking at him to wake him up, but no dice. It didn’t matter, though–once the movie started, we didn’t notice anything else.
Funny how life works. I went to this event thinking, “Audrey Hepburn! Gregory Peck! Big screen! Fancy Art Deco theater!” Turns out, though, Roman Holiday was way more apt for my current circumstances than I anticipated, even though I’ve watched it more times than I can remember.
Roman Holiday is the story of road-weary Princess Ann, who’s on a goodwill tour of Europe. Naturally, she’s deep in the classic life of a royal: smile, nod, greet dignitaries, wave serenely at the crowds from balconies and carriages. Her days are micromanaged down to the last detail, including her responses to people at each function she attends and the milk and crackers she has for a bedtime snack. Even Ann’s potential embarrassments are carefully concealed, such as discreetly putting on a lost shoe when getting up to dance. On her first night in Rome, Ann is drawn to her window by the crowds and music going on below, and as her aide reads the next day’s schedule, something in her just snaps. The kindly royal doctor shows up and gives the hysterical princess a sedative, and some prescient advice: “Best thing I know is to do exactly what you wish for awhile.” before leaving Ann to sleep it off.
Except…she doesn’t. As soon as everyone is gone, Ann gets dressed and sneaks onto a catering truck going out of the castle. At first she’s ecstatic to be free, but then the sedative starts taking effect, and she lumbers down the street to a wall in front of the Fori Imperiali. Enter Joe Bradley, a kindly American who takes pity on Ann and lets her sleep on his couch.
Except Joe’s not just a kindly American, but a reporter for the American News Service, who happens to be scheduled to interview the princess tomorrow. It doesn’t take long for Joe to figure out who he brought home, though, which sets his news-nose itching.
Figuring he’s got the ultimate scoop, Joe makes a deal with his editor to interview Princess Ann in exchange for five thousand dollars. He gets his buddy Irving, a photographer, to help him squire the AWOL royal around Rome. But in order for their scheme to work, they can’t let on that they’re members of the press or that they know who she is. Joe’s cover story is that he sells fertilizer. Hmmm. At the same time, Ann tells Joe her name is Anya and pretends to be a girl gone missing from school. She proudly thinks she has them fooled, but Joe and Irving know better. Still, the two guys masterfully keep up the charade, although Irving almost slips up sometimes. Joe saves Irving from himself by tripping him and spilling various liquids all over him. Nice, helpful fella, that Joe. 🙂
The chief delight of Roman Holiday is, of course, Anya’s jaunt around Rome. They don’t really have a specific plan, but just let the day unfold, which is a revelation for Her Highness. Among other things, Joe and Anya careen through Rome on a Vespa, eat at a cafe, visit landmarks such as the Mouth of Truth and the Spanish Steps, and go dancing on a Tiber River barge. They also get stalked by Secret Service agents who file off the plane from Ann’s home country like a row of black-suited ducks. The plot from there on out is as simple as that. The tension comes in four big questions: Will anyone come clean about who they really are? Will Ann go back to being a royal? Will she and Joe find a way to be together? Will Joe and Irving publish their story about Her Highness’s big day out?
There’s a lot of hiding in Roman Holiday. Joe hides his real occupation and how much he really knows about Anya. Anya hides her true identity, or at least she thinks she does. Irving hides a camera in his cigarette lighter. On the surface, it seems like lying, but at the same time hiding frees them. Ann the princess could never have smashed a guitar over someone’s head, but it was fine for Anya to swing away. Anya was free to buy ballet flats and gelato and get a haircut, but Ann had to accept milk and crackers every night.
It can be nice to break out, and like Anya, temporarily hide from regular life. I hid in a gorgeous theater, as if I had no responsibilities, and rediscovered how much I love seeing classic movies on the big screen. DVD’s are awesome, but no matter how ginormous the TV or how high the definition, they can never be as immersive as a bona fide theater. The fact that I got to experience Roman Holiday with the museum folks was a great bonus, too. I came out starry-eyed and ready to go back to my routine.
“I’d like to do just whatever I like, the whole day long.”
Agreed, Anya. Agreed.
On a side note, here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming up next:
Yep, I will be hunkering down and reviewing the Gilmore Girls reunion series. It’ll be fun, it’ll be epic, and there may or may not be spoilers.
Then in December we’ll have a lovely tribute to one of Hollywood’s great character actresses:
If anyone would like to participate, please contact Crystal. See you all next time…
Buy Roman Holiday from Amazon.