"Princess Caraboo" is about the selfish and fashionable endeavors of the aristocracy of 19th century England, about the role of true charity and from whence it comes, and perhaps most of all it is about humankind's fascination with the story. Although we catch glimpses of, and come to care for, the true character of Caraboo (Cates), the movie's namesake serves mainly as a vessel through which the subject of the film can flow.
In this movie a young beggar who speaks no English is taken in by a well-to-do family, and before long they have determined that she is a queen of the Orient. In no time, she is the town's sensation, and if nothing else, living like royalty. Her story attracts the attention of a newspaper man (Mr. Gutch played by Stephen Rea) who, in determinedly trying to discover the truth about Caraboo, falls in love with her. He half hopes the legend is true, half hopes that she's remarkable enough to have made up a story and a language and a manner to fool the very class she'd always been taught to fear and respect.
I liked this movie for many reasons. It must be said that it's decidedly predictable, but such is the case in movies that are not so much concerned with plot as with characters. The question is, are the characters worth making a movie about? They are. Cates is delightful as always, and in such a role in which she scarcely speaks, she has the opportunity to shine and to demonstrate (through action and manner) her ability to act the part. Stephen Rea is never to be outdone, and has a genuine ability to pull off passion in whatever role he plays. The British aristocracy is portrayed as largely grotesque and corrupt and mind-numbingly self-absorbed.
For my part, I always appreciate a movie that doesn't revolve around romance, and though this movie is touched with pieces of romanticism (definitely a chick-flick in certain ways), it's not about the romance. It is instead about how the story completes us, and how compelling the human imagination really is. Despite the moral values the film purports, Princess Caraboo is not didactic and short on sappiness.
I think "Princess Caraboo" is a delightful and beautiful tale, and I recommend it to those who prefer the story to the action, and who like to see the rich get theirs.
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