‘Roman Holiday’ (1953) Review

After growing overwhelmed and frustrated by her royal obligations, young Princess Anne decides to sneak away from the royal embassy in Italy to experience a day without responsibilities. She meets Joe Bradley, an American journalist who, at first, doesn’t recognize her. Once he’s aware of who he has in his care, he decides to use Princess Ann’s day among regular civilians as a news piece, thinking it will come with a big payday. Of course, things get complicated when the two begin to develop feelings for one another.

This was my first time watching Roman Holiday and it seemed fitting to use this film as my 200th rom-com review. It’s very popular in its genre, listed as #4 in AFI’s Top 10 Romantic Comedies as well as #4 in their 100 Years… 100 Passions list. It was also the winner of several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress.

After viewing Roman Holiday, I can absolutely see why people love this film. It’s so wonderfully charming. From the acting to the direction and music, everything about this movie is just designed to put a gigantic smile on your face. As usual, Audrey Hepburn is absolutely radiant on screen as Princess Ann. I’m still stunned that this was her first big role and she completely nailed it. She has a worldly way about her that is needed for royalty, and yet exudes such innocent restlessness that you can’t help but feel her pain and root for her to experience the world as she chooses to.

Admittedly I have not seen many films starring Gregory Peck but for The Omen and his iconic turn as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. But he was perfect as Joe Bradley. I adored his scenes not only with Hepburn, but with Eddie Albert as well, who went on to score an Oscar nomination for his supporting role here as photographer Irving Radovich.

The movie was originally supposed to be shot in Technicolor, but budget restraints due to shooting on location meant William Wyler had to shoot in black and white. As beautiful as Italy is, I really think the black and white adds a certain romance to the story. The focus is on Princess Ann and Joe, rather than the incredible colors and sights of Rome. And yet, Rome still feels like a character itself, providing the fairy tale backdrop to Ann’s reverse-Cinderella story.

There is very little to complain about with Roman Holiday. I was honestly waiting for the moment where Ann discovered Joe’s duplicity, but the movie never toys with some dramatic reveal and separation. I could have understood it happening but the movie works so much better as is. I found myself quite cheerful through this entire movie and I was completely unprepared for the ending. I thought I would make it without getting too emotional, but as the very last scene begun, and Gregory Peck begins to walk through the embassy… yes, I admit it, I had to grab a couple of tissues. It took me by surprise, the depth of emotion it invoked in me, and because of that, this movie absolutely gets, and deserves five stars.

If you haven’t seen it yet, what on earth are you waiting for?

Author: Romona Comet

"I'm probably watching a rom-com right now."