Saturday, March 10, 2018
Thriller Watch: Charade (1963)
Format: DVR from TCM
First of all: what a cast
Cary Grant. Audrey Hepburn. James Coburn. George Kennedy. Walter Matthau.
Add in direction by Stanley Donan (Singin' in the Rain) and with a jazzy score by Henry Mancini, and you've got something.
During an Alpine get-away, Audrey Hepburn decides to divorce her husband, who is always distant and aloof - she's been in a loveless marriage from the beginning. Just before leaving, she happens to meet Cary Grant. Returning to her home in Paris, she finds her flat has been emptied, all the contents sold, her husband had fled and was found dead.
It seems he was in possession of a great deal of money, and now three men are looking for wherever the money has gone. Cary Grant is compelled to help Hepburn out. Adventure and some wackiness ensue.
While not a comedy, exactly, Charade is still a fun thriller, buoyed along by Hepburn's energy and charm and Grant's understated genius for both comedy and leading-man seriousness. But, holy cats, it's fun having Matthau, Coburn and Kennedy show up in the movie (especially how Coburn and Kennedy first appear).
The movie could play all of this for utter seriousness and it could have been a Hitchockian, tense two hours of drama. Or it could have been a wacky adventure that would have aged poorly, more funny in theory than in practice. Instead they inject the inherent drama with levity. But it never feels less than life or death, turning on a dime.
And thank goodness for the spirit of the thing and terrific cast, because the plot is fine but not exactly ground-breaking. This sort of thing is done often enough that it's fairly easy to spot the twists before they occur. Were this another movie that played it straight and the characters ever felt like they were flailing, I might categorize it as noir. It's got a lot of the trappings. But I just can't. Noir films don't have Cary Grant doing physical comedy in a shower.
And, yes, before we sign off, Audrey Hepburn is gorgeous and immaculately dressed.
So: Viewed. Enjoyed. Would recommend and watch again.
There you go.