For Reel

Roman Holiday (1953)
December 3, 2015, 6:28 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Wyler
4 Stars
Roman HolidayThe great appeal of Roman Holiday is that it involves a romance established almost entirely through gestures and unspoken words. The iconic “Mouth of Truth” scene is enlivened by a sense of two guilty parties grappling with whether or not to reveal their secrets to each other, and the final act lets the sentimental drama of forgiveness and longing unfold with nothing but a few well-edited glances and plays with staging. These moments should perhaps be credited to screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, but director William Wyler’s insistence on small gestures–the way Gregory Peck transfers money from his breast pocket to his pants–suggests his fascination with nonverbal forms of communication, both between his characters and between filmmaker and the audience. Wyler’s sense of space is also commendable, favoring deep-focus, long shots of both the interior and exterior of Peck’s apartment that orient the audience within the location. As much as these little details work, however, Wyler is not as savvy with comedy as directors like Lubitsch or Wilder, and not all of the jokes land with quite the force that they should–there’s something missing, something a little mechanical and stilted about much of the picture. Regardless, as a romance it is utterly irresistible, and the film’s handful of truly great moments elevate it to the standard of its reputation.