The Purple Rose of Cairo

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Purple Rose of Cairo Movie Poster Image
Whimsical Woody Allen love note to '30s films.
  • PG
  • 1985
  • 84 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Tom Baxter is a stalwart movie hero, devised to be courageous, faithful, and polite -- so much so that he even charms some pretty cynical characters. The actor who created Tom, however, turns out to be two-faced. Cecilia, though trapped in a marriage she no longer wants, still chafes at the idea of leaving her husband (though part of this might be her waiflike and unassertive qualities). The 1930s movie characters shown include a somewhat stereotypical black maid.


One fistfight.


Tom Baxter, as a fictitious 1930s Hollywood character, only knows as much about sex as studio censorship permits, and there is much talk of this, especially when he walks into a brothel and gets propositioned, with all kinds of kinky (but non-clinical) suggestions.


"Douchebag," "whorehouse," and "hell" uttered.


Brief references to real-life movies of the 1930s.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink and smoke, both in reality and in the movie-within-a-movie (though the fictional ones have to use prop ginger ale).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that a lot of the movie deals with an innocent, fictional character, from a Golden Age Hollywood film (with morality dictated by studio censorship) suddenly faced with the real world, where people don't fight fair, where despair and unemployment and prostitution exist, and where sex is more than just a fadeout -- resulting in some innuendo-laden dialogue. Adultery is a large part of the plot, with Tom beseeching the married heroine to leave her loutish husband for him.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 December 19, 2014

Movie magic until the very end

This title, to those who have seen Allen's film, will know exactly what I mean, and know that I'm not knocking the film, but referring to its...intere... Continue reading
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bycolten97 October 10, 2012

One of Allen's best film to date

Woody's stories are often derivative, but he's forgiven that, usually, because the results are good and ultimately do deserve his signature. For PURPL... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 11, 2014

Great Woody Allen Dramedy is OK for older tweens

Violence- 2 (Infrequent Mild Violence)
Sex- 2 (Mild Sexual References)
Language-2 (Mild Coarse Language)
Teen, 13 years old Written byamateur_ebert August 21, 2009

A good Woody Allen for tweens

Only Woody Allen could create an idea for a movie like The Purple Rose of Cairo. I say this because Woody Allen is a genius; the plot of Purple Rose was fairly... Continue reading

What's the story?

To escape her terrible marriage to an unemployed jerk (Danny Aiello), unassertive waitress Cecilia (Mia Farrow) frequents the movie theater to watch Hollywood movies. She particularly loves "The Purple Rose of Cairo," and sees it repeatedly -- so much that eventually the romantic lead character Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) notices Cecilia. He falls in love with her, and steps out of the movie, leaving his baffled castmates unable to move the plot forward. Cecilia tours Tom around the real world, where things aren't always fair and sex isn't an abstract, unseen concept. Meanwhile, Tom's defection panics movie-industry executives, who fear other fictional characters will start coming to life and roaming around. They summon the actor who portrayed Tom, Gil Shepard (Daniels again), to find and bring his unruly creation under control. Gil also winds up romancing Cecilia, urging her to leave her husband for him.

Is it any good?

Woody Allen's whimsical tale seems like a valentine -- with some doubts -- to 1930s movies and their glossy black-and-white make-believe that uplifted downtrodden, Depression-era audiences. Grown-ups can take this breezy comedy as both a tribute to and a cautionary tale of women who love movies too much. Kids can enjoy it as one the many fish-out-of-water plots, in which a fantasy-film archetype must deal with the 20th-century real world. And Woody Allen fans will get their fill of his clever dialogue, tinged with existential angst and uncertainty around the edges.

The gimmicky premise pays off in a number of very funny scenes, but there's also a wistful quality about the film, its sepia-toned settings, and an ending twist that puts into sharp focus the idea that true love and happy endings exist more often in movies than in real life. Younger viewers, especially those not into the time period, might be restless that the farce here is more about dialogue, relationships, and concepts than special effects and action.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many layers of the comedy here, and the depiction of Depression-era movies (that filmmaker Woody Allen obviously cherishes) as a form of escape from dismal reality. How might this plot have worked out today? What would you have done in Cecilia's place, faced with Prince Charming suitors in both the imaginary and the actual world? Is Tom Baxter right to equate his scriptwriter with God? Do you think the film ultimately makes a positive statement or a negative one about Hollywood and its ways?

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