From the first fairytales and fables that we hear as children to the novels and films that we enjoy as adults stories contain timeless themes that continue to touch and influence our lives. One such familiar theme is the rags to riches success story that makes up every underdog tale from Cinderella to the modern American dream. One film encompasses this familiar theme is a way that is both an endearing take on a classic and a comment on contemporary life; Sabrina. This 1954 romantic comedy continues to serve equally well as romantic escapism and social satire even decades after its release.
|Nobody puts Audrey in the corner!|
The story begins as chauffer’s daughter Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn) longingly looks on as her father’s employers, the Larrabees, hold their annual summer party. Even though she is preparing to leave for cooking school and start a new life in Paris the next day, Sabrina is consumed with regret that she can never part of the glittering world of the Larrabees and their social set. As the party winds down, she comes upon her long-time crush, playboy David Larrabee (William Holden), in the midst of seducing another woman. Distraught, she impulsively attempts suicide only to be caught and rescued just in time by David’s older brother, staid businessman Linus (Humphrey Bogart). She then leaves for her trip as scheduled and embarks upon a journey of more than mere miles as she acquires a new outlook, self-confidence, and of course cooking skills. By the time that she returns to the Larabee estate two years later she no longer resembles the awkward girl living above the estate garage and is every bit the Parisian sophisticate. Her new persona quickly turns David’s head, putting his impending marriage and the Larrabee business merger depending on that marriage in danger. In order to keep the business and wedding plans in place the Larrabee’s send Linus to distract and ultimately send Sabrina back to Paris. What the Larrabee’s don’t count on, however, is the effect of the charms of the chauffer’s daughter on Linus as well as David.
The film is a rare romantic comedy that works equally well as both a comedy and a romance. Sabrina’s evolution from smitten schoolgirl to confident woman provides an excellent backdrop for her dual romances as she grows out of her infatuation with David in favor of a relationship with the more mature Linus. This same trajectory plays well for laughs with her teenage angst so over-the-top that it serves equally well as both dark comedy and insight into adolescent growing pains. Similarly her interactions with Linus build to a solid romantic foundation with their opposite personalities leaving plenty of opportunity for hijinks. The film also contains a satisfying mix of dry wit and broad comedy with each physical act of comedy such as David’s champagne glass accident matched by equally amusing witticisms courtesy of the sparkling cast of characters.
|What a little la vie en rose can do|
The exemplary cast carries off the romance and comedy aspects of the script with equal aplomb. William Holden imbues his playboy role with a roguish charm that offers no apologies for David’s shenanigans while leaving little doubt as to why Sabrina is so smitten with him. Humphrey Bogart, best known for moody dramas and thrillers proves himself an apt comedic actor in his portrayal of business savvy, but socially awkward, Linus which lends credibility to both Linus’ reputation as a ruthless tycoon and his sweet interactions with Sabrina. While the cast turns in uniformly excellent performances, the film belongs to Hepburn who is a pure delight in her innocent and effervescent performance as a modern-day Cinderella whose secret weapon is not a glass slipper but a winning personality and self-confidence.
Bubbly, witty, and hopelessly romantic, all these phrases aptly describe both Sabrina and its titular heroine. The film’s combination of heartfelt romance and razor-sharp wit make it a winner with something for audiences of all ages and cinematic tastes. The superb cast bring the script to life with a sparkling wit and genuine emotion that ensures that audiences will root for its happy ending, even while enjoying its sly jabs at social disparity. Light as a moonbeam across a starlit sky and effervescent as a fresh glass of champagne, Sabrina is an example of romantic comedy at its finest.
|Who says nice girls finish last?!|