Day Three: Sabrina (1954) (MotM 2018)


Due to time constraints, this review really will be shorter. Though “shorter” is a rather subjective term.

Audrey Hepburn is somewhat of an icon for cinema-goers; the exact reason, I’m sure, is different depending on the fan. Perhaps it is her natural-esque beauty, her portrayal of her characters onscreen, her distinct wardrobe style, or the impact she had off the screen with her “hidden” feminist details (at least that’s what the internet tells me). I have seen Hepburn in only one film before now: My Fair Lady, which I didn’t actually care for (I was 12 at the time. Take it with a grain of salt). This admiration of her or her characters is completely lost on me, so going into Sabrina, I was somewhat expecting to see what the hub-bub was about. I got glimpses, I believe, but nothing compared to the overall structure of a very tired (though not at that point) genre.

Seeing as this film was made over sixty years ago, it’s hard not to point out the incredibly superficial means through which Hepburn’s character is admired. She, as a chauffeur’s daughter, is supposedly “unnoticeable” in the beginning, despite still being Audrey fucking Hepburn, when a trip to Paris, where she is taught how to cook and learn “sophistication” (which is never acutely defined), suddenly makes her attractive to every male in the picture. I simply cannot take this seriously on a practical level, much less through a feminist lens. They did nothing to make her look at all unattractive in the beginning, except with her wardrobe. She’s still beautiful, even in baggy clothing. This whole “Paris trip” is hilariously overblown, and the transformation of her character from beginning to end is like taking the color scarlet and turning it to crimson.

Even outside of her, many characters’ motivations seem to suddenly transform within the blink of an eye. Some characters, such as Hepburn’s character’s father and the father of the two men pining for her are so within themselves that one comes across as comedic and the other patronizing. David (the party animal) particularly is immensely puzzling, as while he’s portrayed in most parts of the movie to be a simple doofus cherishing hedonism, he turns a complete 180 by the end and becomes a hero worthy of empathy… because… love? It’s one of those situations where things occur within the background that viewers will have to fill in for themselves, which can trigger thoughts of jumping to conclusions without the proper build-up to that character-changing realization or action. Sabrina jumps like Frogger, especially within the last ten minutes or so.

Still, if there’s much to say positively it is the portrayal of characters, despite the characters themselves being transparent and fidgety. Hepburn is very charming, and I knew of William Holden’s chops from Sunset Boulevard. Bougart is equally in command of the suit-and-tie model of all work and no play. These actors are pleasantly within their world and make the most of it, as much as they possibly can. For a work so beloved and acclaimed from director Billy Wilder, this one doesn’t really hold up against the societal changes of today or from a more logical progression of empathetic narrative.

Final Score: 5.5/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

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