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Month: October 2011

Deranged (1974)

Deranged (1974)

“I apologize for calling you a hog, mama.”

Synopsis:
A deranged farmer (Roberts Blossom) goes off the deep end when his overly religious mother (Cosette Lee) dies, recovering her body from its grave a year later, and murdering local women to help restore her decaying corpse.

Genres:

Review:
Essentially a thinly veiled biopic about “Mad Butcher” Ed Gein, Deranged remains a gruesome but surprisingly effective low-budget slasher flick. Most definitely not for the faint of heart, Deranged — filled with a healthy dose of black humor — spares no details in presenting the travails of its increasingly unhinged anti-hero, as it tracks his descent from dutifully compliant grown son to psychotic necrophiliac. Blossoms is well-cast in the central role, doing a fine job with an undeniably tricky character; we never doubt either his sincerity or his derangement for a single second. Co-directors Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby set up many tension-filled scenes (viz. barmaid Micki Moore’s introduction to Blossoms’ household existence!), which are all nicely paced and include a decent number of shocks and thrills; meanwhile, Carl Zittrer’s score (based thematically upon the hymn “Old Rugged Cross”) serves as an effective reminder about the religiosity behind Blossoms’ mental disturbance. I’m astonished to find myself recommending this one as must-see, but it’s good enough at what it sets out to do that I think it’s worth a look by all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Roberts Blossom as Ezra
  • Many genuinely creepy moments
  • Jack McGowan’s cinematography
  • An effectively disturbing score

Must See?
Yes, simply as a well-crafted, low-budget genre flick — but be forewarned that it’s utterly gruesome. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

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Star is Born, A (1954)

Star is Born, A (1954)

“He saw something in me nobody else ever did. He made me see it, too. He made me believe it!”

Synopsis:
An alcoholic movie star (James Mason) falls in love with an aspiring singer (Judy Garland) and helps her break through in Hollywood — but his own success is quickly fading, and soon they find their marriage and loyalty tested.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of this “gracefully directed epic remake of the 1937 classic” by citing its infamous 1983 restoration by Ron Haver, pointing out that “as a result we can discover one of the fifties’ finest films”. The remainder of his review focuses primarily on the unique relation between Garland’s “small-time band singer Esther Blodgett” and James Mason’s “fading actor Norman Maine, who sees her sing and detects greatness.” Indeed, while its storyline is firmly rooted within Hollywood — and doesn’t flinch from presenting the seamier sides of the town’s questionable glory — it is the central romance between Blodgett and Maine that trumps all else. As Peary notes, “What makes this film so special and so timely is how mutually supportive Vicki [nee Esther] and Norman are: their initial excitement about and respect for each other never fades away”, even when you’d most expect Norman to become incurably jealous of his wife. Miraculously, “he never feels spiteful about her success, even when feeling self-pity”; meanwhile, “she recognizes that her success is due to him… and won’t desert him when everyone else has”. It’s a refreshingly heartwarming romance, yet one which never descends into undue sentimentality.

A Star is Born benefits from masterful direction by George Cukor, impressive early use of the Cinemascope process, vibrant cinematography and art direction, and a top-notch, “cynical yet compassionate you-and-me-against-the-world (Hollywood) script” by Moss Hart — yet it is the “wonderful, deeply affecting performances” by Garland and Mason that I believe are ultimately responsible for making this film such a timeless classic. Garland’s performance is the one that generally receives the most attention, for multiple reasons: it was her “come-back” role several years after leaving MGM, and her presumed victory in the Oscars race was trumped by Grace Kelly’s unmerited win for The Country Girl. Garland is indeed marvelous here; as noted by Peary in his Alternate Oscars (where he instantly hands her the award she so clearly deserved), she gives “the finest performance” in her career, playing a woman with “amazing depth, wit, resilience, [and] graciousness”. While “Garland always played nice girls”, he argues that “this was the first time [her] character’s goodness comes from the soul”, and notes that “Esther-Vicki is Garland’s most mature character and the one who has the most passion”. In addition, he points out that “playing Esther-Vicki let Garland demonstrate her remarkable musical versatility”; while “we are told Janet Gaynor’s Esther-Vicki has talent in the 1937 film, Garland proves her star talent”.

However, Mason’s performance is equally impressive — and if it weren’t for Marlon Brando’s astonishing turn as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (another of my all-time favorite films), I would argue that Mason equally deserved top recognition at the Oscars that year. Not a single moment of his performance here is anything less than nuanced and revelatory; the fact that he emerges as one of cinema’s most sympathetic has-beens is especially astonishing after watching his cringe-worthy entrance on the screen during the film’s opening sequence, when he and Garland “meet cute” (if you could dare to call it that). One fully expects this man to be someone Garland should stay miles and miles away from; therefore, his emergence as a man truly dedicated to his wife’s success, despite his own significant career challenges, is a pleasantly unexpected development. From his refreshingly authentic reaction to the egregious “transformation” attempted on Esther-Vicki by the studios, to the final heartbreaking scene in their beachside bungalow (watch his expression as he overhears Garland talking with studio head Charles Bickford), this is a man worthy of so much more respect than his insidious disease allowed him to maintain.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Judy Garland as Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester
  • James Mason as Norman Maine
  • Esther singing “The Man that Got Away”
  • Masterful use of Cinemascope
  • Innovative cinematography (see the fourth paragraph of TCM’s article)
  • Moss Hart’s screenplay

Must See?
Absolutely; this one is a gem on multiple levels.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Country Girl, The (1954)

Country Girl, The (1954)

“They all start out as Juliets and wind up as Lady Macbeths.”

Synopsis:
An aging has-been singer (Bing Crosby) with an embittered wife (Grace Kelly) is given a second chance at fame when a theatrical director (William Holden) insists on casting him as the star in an upcoming musical — but will Crosby’s insecurities and alcoholic tendencies prevent him from success?

Genres:

Review:
Based on a play by Clifford Odets, this stagy melodrama will forever remain infamous as the film that “robbed Judy Garland of her Oscar”, given that a heavily deglamourized Grace Kelly won the Best Actress Oscar instead. Knowing this, one watches The Country Girl with an extra degree of skepticism — is Kelly’s performance really even a viable contender against Garland’s?; sadly, one emerges convinced that the rumors are all true: Garland WAS robbed. At first, Kelly’s performance is reasonably impressive, given that she does bravely (?) allow herself to be completely stripped of all charm and appeal (not to mention make-up), and convincingly embodies her character’s deeply held bitterness; but her portrayal ultimately emerges as one-note — and the film itself is such a troubled vehicle that it’s impossible to ever fully engage with her dilemma, or feel any genuine sympathy for her.

At its heart, The Country Girl is a tale of corrosive misogyny, with Holden’s cynical, divorced director so embittered by his own past romantic challenges that he seems to be questioning the utility of women in general — as evidenced in the following disturbing quotes:

“It’s a pity that Leonardo da Vinci didn’t have a wife to guide him; he might have really gotten somewhere.”
“I don’t like strong women, Mrs. Elgin.”
“You know why he lacks authority? Because his wife has too much of it.”
“They all start out as Juliets and wind up as Lady Macbeths.”

It’s up to Kelly, naturally, to convince Holden that all she’s ever wanted was for her husband to succeed — in other words, that’s she’s a good 1950s wife rather than a shrewish impediment to his happiness. To say more about this evolution would give away spoilers — but suffice it to say that both her character arc and Holden’s feel palpably calculated. Meanwhile, Crosby provides the film’s only truly sympathetic performance; seemingly unafraid to present his character as the complex and conflicted individual he is, his cripplingly insecure Frank Elgin comes across as all too authentic and pathetic.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Bing Crosby as Frank
  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No, though must film fanatics probably won’t be able to resist checking it out, given its historical notoriety. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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To Catch a Thief (1955)

To Catch a Thief (1955)

“I’ve never caught a jewel thief before; it’s stimulating.”

Synopsis:
During a rash of jewelry heists on the French Riviera, the daughter (Grace Kelly) of a wealthy widow (Jessie Royce Landis) tries to seduce a retired thief (Cary Grant) who’s busy attempting to clear his name.

Genres:

Review:
Made just after Rear Window (1954) and several years before North by Northwest (1959), the romantic-thriller To Catch a Thief is generally acknowledged as one of Hitchcock’s lighter-weight efforts. He managed to lure Cary Grant out of early retirement to star opposite Grace Kelly, who would soon be enjoying an early retirement herself, as the new Princess of Monaco; indeed, cultural historians will be interested to learn that it was during the filming of this movie that Kelly “spied a beautiful, walled garden she wanted to tour”, though “arrangements with the owner, Prince Rainier, could not be made in time”, and they didn’t meet until the following year. At any rate, the storyline of TCAT — essentially a whodunit combined with one of Hitchcock’s favorite tropes, a falsely accused man attempting to clear his name — is indeed a mere trifle; the primary enjoyment rests in soaking up the truly marvelous vistas along the French Riviera, which DP Robert Burks managed to capture in stunning Technicolor (I’ll admit to salivating). Grant (in fit form) and Kelly (gorgeous, naturally) are both fine romantic leads, but it’s Jessie Royce Landis — perhaps best known for playing Grant’s mother in NXNW — who really stands out here, playing a refreshingly humble heiress who consistently surprises us with her relaxed attitude towards life.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fabulous location shooting on the French Riviera
  • Robert Burks’ Technicolor cinematography

  • Jessie Royce Landis as Mrs. Stevens

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended for one-time viewing, and certainly a must for Hitchcock, Grant, or Kelly fans.

Links:

Charade (1963)

Charade (1963)

“I already know an awful lot of people; until one of them dies, I couldn’t possibly meet anyone else.”

Synopsis:
A young widow (Audrey Hepburn) pursued by three ex-compatriots (James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass) of her deceased husband seeks solace and protection from a mysterious but friendly man (Cary Grant), who may or may not be equally interested in obtaining the $250,000 her husband supposedly had in his possession.

Genres:

Review:
Infamously referred to as the “best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made”, this Stanley Donen-directed romantic thriller has a lot going for it — including the only on-screen pairing of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn (who apparently loved working together), a clever script which offers plenty of surprises and violent shocks, and an overall air of breezy Parisian chic. Given its obvious credentials — and the wonderfully escapist enjoyment it offers — I was puzzled about my own niggling reticence with labeling it a true “classic”, until I read DVD Savant’s insightful (as always) review and realized I agree with his assessment that the film’s “only drawback [is]… a serious case of ‘the cutes’, a malady that seems to affect many ’60s films that want to capture a tongue-in-cheek cleverness.” Savant points out that “every word out of the mouths of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn is a guaranteed clever comeback, smart remark or flip observation, each delivered with more drollery than the last”; indeed, my primary complaint about the film is how easily Hepburn is able to glibly switch her focus back (again and again) to flirting with Grant, in the midst of her life being seriously in danger. Perhaps this is a function of the script having been changed (at the request of Grant) to make the much-younger Hepburn Grant’s pursuer, rather than the other way around; is it possible the same behavior coming from a man wouldn’t be quite so discomfiting?

At any rate, despite this minor complaint, the film as a whole remains eminently enjoyable, and is guaranteed to keep you glued to the screen as you watch in anticipation to see which of the candidates (is it one of the three “baddies”, or the ever-elusive Grant himself?) will ultimately prove to be the real menace. Chances are you won’t guess correctly. Meanwhile, Donen makes very effective use of (largely) on-site locations in Paris; the performances (both lead and supporting) are all top-notch; and Hepburn is as lovely as ever in Givenchy (though it’s too bad she doesn’t get a chance to dress in at least one evening gown… oh well!). Hepburn and Grant possess fine chemistry together; Grant’s concerns about being too old as a romantic lead for her (perhaps in reaction to the lambasting Gary Cooper received after Love in the Afternoon) are ultimately unfounded. The final plot twist — where exactly is that stash of a quarter million dollars hidden? — is very cleverly handled as well.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Audrey Hepburn as Regina Lampert
  • Cary Grant as “Peter Joshua”
  • James Coburn as “Tex”
  • Fine use of authentic Paris locales
  • Lovely Givenchy outfits
  • Maurice Binder’s stylish opening titles

Must See?
Yes, as a stylishly classic thriller.

Categories

Links:

Wait Until Dark (1967)

Wait Until Dark (1967)

“This is the big bad world, full of mean people, where nasty things happen.”

Synopsis:
The blind wife (Audrey Hepburn) of a man (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) who unknowingly possesses a doll stuffed with heroin is terrorized by three men (Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, and Jack Weston) determined to get the doll back at any price.

Genres:

Review:
Wait Until Dark — based on a Broadway play by Frederic Knott (who also wrote Dial M for Murder) — is an often chilling and well-acted but ultimately frustrating thriller. It’s undone by its very premise, which is simply too contrived to swallow — beginning with the opening scenes, in which Hepburn’s naive husband (Zimbalist) befriends a beautiful woman (Samantha Jones) on a plane and agrees at the last minute to take a (heroin-filled, though he doesn’t know that) doll from her. After this puzzling, dialogue-free scene (frustratingly, we don’t learn until far too much later the rationale behind why Jones gave up the doll, and why Zimbalist accepted it), we’re suddenly plunged into the heart of the thriller, as we learn that the doll is now somewhere in Hepburn’s house — though once again, we’re given too little information to go on (what does Hepburn know about the doll, if anything?). Next, we’re introduced to an inexplicably bratty neighbor girl (Julie Herrod) who magically transforms into the more helpful assistant/accomplice Hepburn needs her to be, and we begin to learn more about the needlessly convoluted scenario the three con-men have devised in order to befriend Hepburn and convince her to give up the doll’s location.

Clearly, there are flaws in the essential construction of the plot — yet director Terence Young does a fine job building and maintaining a fair amount of tension throughout; we can’t help wondering what will happen next, and how/when Hepburn will finally realize she’s being duped (then survive). The last half-hour of the film is particularly chilling, and is notable for supposedly offering audiences only the second on-screen instance of a now-very-common kind of horror thrill (which I can’t give away here at risk of divulging spoilers). The film as a whole remains of historic interest as well, given that it offered Audrey Hepburn her last significant role before her semi-retirement at the age of 38; along with Young, she trained extensively beforehand at a nearby institute for the blind, and is remarkably convincing. She deserved her Academy Award nomination for the role — though interestingly, Peary insists she actually should have been given the award for her performance the same year in Stanley Donen’s Two for the Road, and neglects to even nominate her for her work here.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Audrey Hepburn as Susy Hendrix
  • Alan Arkin as Roat
  • The chilling finale
  • Henry Mancini’s score

Must See?
No, but it’s certainly recommended for one-time viewing.

Links:

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

“There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh.”

Synopsis:
A successful comedy film director (Joel McCrea) hoping to make more “meaningful” social dramas decides to dress in hobo clothing and hit the road to learn first-hand what poverty is like. Soon he meets a beautiful young ingenue (Veronica Lake) who accompanies him on his travails — but events quickly turn much more serious than he intended.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary votes this “marvelous social satire” by Preston Sturges as Best Picture of the Year in his Alternate Oscars book, though he wishes he could call it a tie with Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be, which he considers an equally worthy contender. He argues that Sturges proves “that a good Hollywood film can mix outrageous comedy with a social message”, given that we “laugh at the hysterical dialogue, the farcical situations…, the satirical barbs against Hollywood, and the slapstick”, yet also “pay attention to the parade of poverty’s victims during Sullivan’s Swiftian journey”. However, I’m not quite sure I agree with this latter point. At the risk of sounding like a Grinch about a Certified American Classic, I don’t actually believe audiences are forced to pay enough attention to “poverty’s victims” in this film — which is all about Sullivan, all the time. While Peary notes that Sturges “democratically gives all his characters, even his supporting players, important and wise things to say”, the voices of the downtrodden he’s so interested in speaking to and learning about are, with just a couple of exceptions, noticeably absent.

Now that my gripe is over, however, I’ll concede that there is much to admire about the film. Its Hawksian dialogue does indeed “have humor and rhythm”; Peary accurately describes it “like a relay race, with words used like batons”, in which “the second one character finishes a sentence, another starts his; characters join in, there are no gaps, and the pace becomes frenetic”. He also notes that “McCrea, who is well over six feet tall, and Lake at five-foot-two and 90 pounds [though pregnant!]… make a wonderful screen team”, given that they “have sweet feelings toward each other from the beginning, and are always protective of one another”; they are indeed “an ideal couple”. As Peary notes, this “was the picture that confirmed [they] were versatile performers”. Watch for a host of fine supporting performances, lovely b&w cinematography, and numerous memorable scenes.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Joel McCrea as John Sullivan (nominated as one of the Best Actors of the Year in Alternate Oscars)
  • Veronica Lake as “the Girl” (nominated as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in Alternate Oscars)
  • Wonderful supporting performances throughout

  • John Seitz’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, of course — as an undisputed classic.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

“We must forget if we want to go on living.”

Synopsis:
A retired American judge (Spencer Tracy) is appointed to preside over a set of trials at Nuremberg, in which four German judges — Burt Lancaster, Werner Klemperer, Torben Meyer, and Martin Brandt — are accused of crimes against humanity.

Genres:

Review:
Stanley Kramer’s dramatic reenactment of the infamous post-WWII military tribunals — known collectively as the Nuremberg Trials — boldly attempts to engage audiences in a solemn examination of weighty moral dilemmas, most specifically the question of whether those who have committed crimes against humanity under the authority of their own government should be held responsible for their actions. There is clearly no simple answer to such a complicated question, and the film spends its lengthy three-hour-plus running time reiterating just this point; much like Spencer Tracy’s Justice Hayward and his fellow American judges, we simply don’t know what “should” be done with the high-level German judges sitting before them — men who authorized the execution or sterilization of countless innocent individuals, yet were expected to do so by their government.

Judgment at Nuremberg, despite its strengths, is a uniquely challenging courtroom drama to sit through, given that we’re not meant to judge whether the sentences received by the two victims who testify in court — a mentally challenged laborer (Montgomery Clift) sterilized for his Communist associations, and a young Aryan woman (Judy Garland) imprisoned for her friendship with an older Jewish gentleman — were just or not; of course they weren’t. What’s actually at stake here is whether the judges on trial were right to sentence these individuals as they did. Interestingly, the broader context of the trials — i.e., the question of whether Americans and others even had a “right” to come in to Germany and prosecute its citizens in such a manner — is only explored through the perspective of the Germans (such as Marlene Dietrich’s widow, Maximillian Schell’s defense attorney, and Burt Lancaster’s judge) who bitterly resist this imposition. Otherwise, the only non-German perspective we get on the matter is when a judge is cautioned to acquit the defendants as a strategic Cold War maneuver, to maintain good relations with the country. Viewers will be left to decide for themselves whether the trials themselves were ultimately warranted or not.

The Oscar-nominated performances throughout, naturally, are top-notch, beginning with Tracy’s subtle yet powerful turn in the tricky central role; we empathize with his situation every minute he’s on-screen. Clift is simply phenomenal in a scene-stealing turn as a mentally challenged young man who struggles to articulate his thoughts, yet knows that what was done to him was not right. Garland’s supporting role is less showy, but she’s also impressive — and, as many have noted, her performance here was clear evidence of the type of “serious” role she could have excelled at if her life had taken a different set of personal turns. Richard Widmark is appropriately cast as a righteous prosecutor convinced that the judges must pay for their actions, while Oscar-winner Maximillian Schell (who Peary argues didn’t actually deserve the Best Actor award, given that his role is more of a supporting one) convincingly portrays the pride and indignation felt by occupied Germans after the war.

Note: Kramer’s attention to detail throughout the film is rigorous and noteworthy — including the clever way in which he has the actors switch from engaging in simultaneous German/English translation to simply speaking in English, with the implicit acknowledgement that we’re meant to “hear” them as still speaking in their native language.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Spencer Tracy as Justice Hayward
  • Maximillian Schell as Hans Rolfe
  • Montgomery Clift as Rudolph Peterson
  • Judy Garland as Irene Hoffman
  • Richard Widmark as Colonel Lawson
  • Marlene Dietrich as the widowed Mrs. Bertholt

Must See?
Yes, for its historical relevance as an Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning drama.

Categories

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Love in the Afternoon (1957)

Love in the Afternoon (1957)

“You know who I am, Mr. Flanagan — the girl in the afternoon, the apertif, as we say in the Left Bank.”

Synopsis:
The daughter (Audrey Hepburn) of a private investigator (Maurice Chevalier) in Paris goes to warn a wealthy playboy (Gary Cooper) that the husband (John McGiver) of his lover (Lise Bourdin) is coming to kill him — then finds herself falling for Cooper.

Genres:

Review:
Poor Gary Cooper has been raked over the coals so often for his purported miscasting in this Billy Wilder romantic comedy (he was 56 at the time, Hepburn just 28) that it feels unkind to perpetuate the discussion. Actually, despite my complaint about Hepburn’s casting opposite 58-year-old Fred Astaire in Funny Face the same year, I wasn’t all that disturbed by the romantic leads’ age difference here, given that Cooper’s Frank Flanagan (unlike Astaire’s “lowly” fashion photographer) is clearly presented as a handsome, worldly playboy industrialist, and such individuals are notorious for appealing to women of all ages. Indeed, Hepburn’s schoolgirl crush on Cooper makes complete sense: he represents everything she naively longs for (mystery, intrigue, romance, adventure) from the cloistered comfort of her single-parent home, where her doting father (Chevalier, wonderfully cast) naively entices her with stories of his clients’ misadventures.

Unfortunately, the film as a whole isn’t entirely successful. It’s too long by far, and its pacing is off, particularly during the first hour; things don’t really heat up until the second half of the story, when Hepburn suddenly begins “playing” Cooper, and we’re eager to see how she’ll manage to keep him enticed. It’s frustrating, however, that the mores of the time made it difficult for Wilder to definitively show one way or the other whether Hepburn and Cooper are actually lovers during the afternoon, or simply companions; it’s difficult to believe they would remain the latter, yet we’re simultaneously meant to suppose that Hepburn stays conveniently “innocent” throughout. Meanwhile, it’s frustrating to witness Hepburn’s persistent infatuation with Cooper, given what we understand about his inveterate playboy tendencies (witness the opera intermission scene, for instance, when Cooper’s eyes wander uncontrollably); we know for a fact that he’ll never be able to devotes his attentions solely to her, in the way she clearly hopes for and deserves.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Audrey Hepburn as Ariane Chavasse
  • Maurice Chevalier as Claude Chavasse
  • Luminous b&w cinematography

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for Hepburn or Wilder fans. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book, though I’m not quite sure why.

Links:

Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina (1954)

“I want him; I’ve been in love with him all my life.”

Synopsis:
The daughter (Audrey Hepburn) of the chauffeur (John Williams) for a family of wealthy industrialists is sent to cooking school in Paris, where she continues to pine away for the family’s playboy son, David (William Holden). Upon her return, David — despite being strategically engaged to the daughter (Martha Hyer) of another industrialist scion — is suddenly smitten by Hepburn’s chic transformation, and vows to marry her; but his more practical older brother (Humphrey Bogart) is determined to intervene.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of this “Billy Wilder comedy” — adapted from a Samuel Taylor play — by noting that “only in America could the daughter of a mere chauffeur be courted by not one but two millionaires and have the opportunity to marry into an established Eastern family. Sure, sure — if you happen to have the beauty and charm of Audrey Hepburn”. Indeed, it’s Hepburn’s undeniable charisma — and flattering appearance in Givenchy, her designer of choice — that fuel this “Hollywood fluff”, which will appeal most “to those who prefer glamour to content, actors to characters”. The storyline itself is pure fairy tale — and as Peary notes, “Hepburn, of course, is ideal, once again playing a variation on Cinderella”, an archetype she portrayed to cinematic perfection throughout the 1950s. Unfortunately, other than Hepburn, there’s precious little else to hold on to here, given that Sabrina’s schoolgirl crush on David (while understandable) is so clearly wrong-headed, Bogart’s “self-sacrificing” character remains a cypher throughout, and the romantic direction things eventually go in doesn’t make much sense. Film fanatics will be primarily interested in this one simply to see Hepburn at her loveliest — and to catch a glimpse of some truly stunning Givenchy gowns.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina
  • Lovely Givenchy dresses

  • Charles Lang’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended, and famous enough that most film fanatics will probably be curious to at least check it out.

Links: