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4. Mia Farrow, "The Purple Rose of Cairo" (1985)
With 12 features (plus one portmanteau short) over the course of their 13-year partnership, Mia Farrow can boast more Allen collaborations than any other actor – yet she hasn’t a single Oscar nomination to show for it. It’s a glaring injustice that rankles particularly in the case of this film, where a bittersweet magical-realist romance is ultimately a cover for one of Allen’s saddest, subtlest character studies. As Cecilia, a meek New Jersey waitress who haunts her local movie theater seeking literal escape from the Great Depression and her abusive marriage, Farrow etches a remarkably specific, sympathetic portrait of a woman who’s not a failure so much as a dreamer failed by her own dreams. Allen never penned a more generously tailored showcase for the actress’s soft, skittish star presence; the result remains a career highlight for both.
- Guy Lodge