Now That’s Good Acting and Good Storytelling

Just saw Roman Holiday, the original version with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.  I’ve seen it before, more than once, but not since I started writing.   By modern movie standards it is considered cheesy and dated, and the story idea has been used so much since that it has become a cliche.  However, you can’t blame the movie that started the idea for that.

I still like the movie, even though I wasn’t even alive when it was made in 1953.  This time I watched the movie from the perspective of the acting and the script-writing.  Sure, it’s slow by modern standards, with very little high action, the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end, and is indeed in significant financial trouble.  After all he turned down a $5,000 story and took on $600 debt (to his friend and to his boss).  In modern terms that’s more like $100,000 and $12,000.   However, without many words, without hysterics or over-bold actions (OK, the music is corny by today’s standards) the actors portray strong inner emotions while at the same time the script and acting creates characters that are honest to themselves and to the world around them.   At the end of the “holiday”, they talk about what might be, lying outwardly while knowing full well that they are deceiving no-one.   The plot might be a little campy but the chemistry between the two actors and that inner honesty is very refreshing compared the run of the mill action-adventure characters that we see so much these days.

Even the supporting cast’s acting is the same.  When Princess Ann says “Your Excellency, I trust you will not find it necessary to use that word again. Were I not completely aware of my duty to my family and to my country, I would not have come back tonight… or indeed ever again!”  she doesn’t shout, she doesn’t cry, she doesn’t break down.  She is calm, collected and firm, but we can see from her face not only how hard it was for her to say that, but how much she means it.  And then, the ambassador and the Countess say absolutely nothing, hardly move, don’t lift a hand at all, yet we can see that they understand the strength of those words.

I have also seen the remake that came out in 1987.  Garbage.   I am not surprised that TV companies prefer to run the original.  However, this movie, and the fact that we do still see it run on TV, is proof that even these days story-telling doesn’t have to be about special effects, action, action and more special effects and more action.

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