Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Classic Romantic Comedies Vol. 7: Sabrina

Since, my last post had a bit of an Audrey Hepburn flavour to it and December (and the blog's official Christmas season) looms upon the horizon, I figure now is as good a time as any to put up my final regular Classic Romantic Comedies post (at least in the foreseeable future, and not including certain holiday themed Romantic Comedies).   Many of Audrey Hepburn's films, especially those from her early career can be considered classic romantic comedies.  Audrey Hepburn is the prototypical manic pixie dream girl (if you're not familiar with the term it was originally coined by A.V. Club writer Nathan Rabin, here's a link to an A.V. Club Inventory of top films featuring manic pixie dream girls) and in these films she is pair up against a significantly older male lead and using her waif-ish charms teaches them to love life.  They also always fall in love with her during the process.  I could have picked from more than a couple of films from Ms. Hepburn's filmography, including Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany's, however for me there is one Hepburn film that surmounts both of those.  Incidentally, I think it is often overlooked in favour of those former two.  It is 1954's Sabrina, directed by Billy Wilder.

Sabrina, stars Audrey Hepburn, as the titular Sabrina, daughter of the impossibly rich Larrabee family's chauffeur.  Sabrina is in love with the Larrabee's younger playboy son David, played by William Holden,  but he doesn't know that she exists.  She contents herself by watching him from tree tops of the Larrabee estate during Larrabee parties as David romances other girls.  Sabrina's father sends her to Paris to learn to be a great chef, and hopefully get over David.  While in Paris she does learn to be a great cook, she also learns how to embrace life, gains a fashionable Givenchy wardrobe, and a sophisticated new haircut.  When she comes back home to America and the Larrabee estate, something wonderful happens.  David finally notices Sabrina.  In fact he is so taken with her that he invites her to the latest Larrabee party and starts wooing her.  This doesn't sit well with the rest of the Larrabee family, especially older brother Linus, played by Humphrey Bogart, whose latest business deal hinges on the marriage of David to the daughter of an important business associate.  He quickly neutralizes David via champagne glass injury, and sets about winning Sabrina's heart for himself in a cruel plan to trick her into going back to Paris.  What Linus doesn't account for is his own development of feelings for Sabrina.

Sabrina was adapted from the stage play, Sabrina Fair, by Billy Wilder.  Wilder imbues the script with the appropriate amount of cynicism balanced with witty dialogue and an appropriate amount of physical comedy.  It really plays up the upstairs downstairs quality of this story with the Larrabee servants championing Sabrina's relationship with David (with the exception of her father who is a staunch opponent of rising above one's station in life), and David and Linus' status obsessed parents (particularly their father who shares Sabrina's father's opinions).  The scenes between Linus, David, and their father are hilarious, especially when involving David's unfortunate injury and Larrabee senior's disgust with his sons and their entanglement with Sabrina.  Both Bogart and Holden do a fabulous job in their roles, Bogart being a particular surprise as old brother Linus.  While many think he was miscast in this role, I think he is appropriate as a man who has devoted his life and youth to business who is finally shaken out of his funk by this effervescent young woman.

As for the effervescent young woman, this is one film where Hepburn does not fall into twee territory.  She manages to play her girlish enthusiasm with a certain dignity that seemed to elude her in later roles.  She is utterly fascinating to watch and steals practically every scene that she is in.  This is a film that is a complete confection that doesn't leave your hands sticky.  I like to watch it on a dreary November night in anticipation of Christmas...

Here's the trailer...

No comments:

Post a Comment