Sabrina (1954)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Sabrina</strong> (1954)

(In French, On Cable TV, January 2019) If you want to understand why so many people love Audrey Hepburn as an actress, as a style icon or even as a person, you can start with Breakfast at Tiffany’s … or you can start with Sabrina. I know which one I’d pick: Despite Breakfast at Tiffany’s little black dress, Sabrina has Hepburn in a far more suitable role, avoids many of the unpleasant edges of the other film, and showcases Hepburn at the very beginning of her long association with high fashion. It’s also, to put it bluntly, a better movie. Here we have Humphrey Bogart, certainly too old for Hepburn at thirty years her senior but playing a fascinating deviation on his usual persona as a sophisticated businessman thrown in a romantic role. Plot-wise, Sabrina is filled with tricky material—the acknowledged age difference, the class issues, the messy familial romantic entanglements, heck the opening scene’s suicide attempt—but it succeeds largely because of writer/director Billy Wilder’s typically light touch on difficult material. The intriguing glimpse at the life of New York’s upper-class set is window dressing for a romance that’s not as clear-cut as in many other movies of the period, and that’s the territory in which Wilder excelled. Still, for most, Sabrina will be enjoyable on a purely aesthetic level: This is the movie that first paired Audrey Hepburn with Paris (even if only in studio shots), and also the film that launched her lifelong association with Givenchy. Sabrina is far less sappy and mindless than you’d expect from a mid-1950s romance, and that’s what gives it enduring power—plus Bogart and Hepburn, of course.

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