Sunday, June 30, 2019
Romance Watch: Sabrina (1954)
Format: TCM on DVR
Everyone but me has seen this movie, but we were staying in on a Saturday and it seemed like a good option for a bit of a light movie and to check off a viewing box.
Somehow, until about two years ago, it had escaped my notice that Sabrina (1954) was actually a Billy Wilder film, and so I wanted to give it a real shot, and I'm glad I did - it did surpass whatever bar I'd set for the movie. The movie isn't exactly what I expected, which was to see two brothers in escalating conflict, trying to win over Audrey Hepburn. You can read that as: I didn't want to watch two middle-aged guys duking it out over an ingenue for 2 hours - but it's not really that.
I'll admit, the film is a bit richer than I expected. Maybe it's still a fantasy-book sort of story, and much of it hasn't aged well and would be deeply rewritten for a remake in 2019 (I've not seen and am okay with never seeing the remake), but the leads don't just want things in quite the direct manner I'd figure for many romantic comedies - even ones I like - that doesn't quite make sense applied in the real world.
I'm a fan of all three leads and what I've seen of Wilder's work, and while it's not Some Like It Hot, it's still engaging, charming and has a certain melancholy to it that other romantic comedies could stand to learn from. It contains scenes that would baffle most executives now - the entire sequence with Audrey Hepburn and Bogart where she tries to make him dinner would be cut for a few pithy lines in the lobby - and acknowledges the massive age gap between Hepburn and Bogart (less so with William Holden, who is perfectly cast in this movie) rather than ignoring it as they do in all the Bacall/Bogart pictures (dude was about 25 years Bacall's senior).
The movie doesn't just depend on the three leads and employs a number of terrific supporting actors and character actors, not the least of which is Ellen Corby, who was in... everything. Usually as a working class person and never a lead role - and she always just kills her scenes (she did wind up as Grandma Walton on The Waltons). I'm a fan. Oddly - the movie also features Nancy Kulp, whom you know as Ms. Hathaway from The Beverly Hillbillies and whom I just realized - I'd never seen in anything else.
As a grouchy 44 year old, I did sort of roll my eyes at the "I went and studied abroad and now I'm a European sophisticate" angle for our lead, mostly because, man, I too remember folks coming back from their year overseas and suddenly having insufferable accents and using English pronunciation of words that they'd used without a misstep for the first 20 years of their lives. But, the movie hinges on the idea, so what are you gonna do? Here's your fantasy come to life, kids.*
The movie also supposes that no one noticed Audrey Hepburn running around for most of her life at the Long Island mansion at the hear of the movie and has a laugh at ponytails as hairstyle which is ug'ing her up, but... I mean, my dudes...
Anyway - it's a cute movie and I can see why other people borrow from it all the time. But it's still very much it's own movie, and I appreciate it for what it is - maybe even liked it better than you'd think I would. But, hey, it hit me in just the right spot.
*I mean, it's no dumber than the idea that Bogart could land a gorgeous 22 year old with options, but then... Bacall, so... I mean... who am I to question anything?