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Classic Cinema: Sabrina
July 7, 2013Posted by on
After Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I decided to check out another Audrey Hepburn flick, the 1954’s Sabrina. The storyline is simple: An emotionless rich businessman attempts to manipulate an emotionally unstable woman into leaving the country in order to further a business deal.
Okay, that is the cynic’s view of the movie. In fact, I like this movie quite a bit. I found that the characters and dialogue were very natural and witty in that the writing reminded me very much of a stage play (which, in fact, I later found out the movie was adapted from a play).
Hepburn plays the titular Sabrina, the daughter of a wealthy family’s chauffeur. She has a problem in that she is completely in love with one of the family’s sons, David (William Holden) – a womanizing playboy who has never once noticed her. Sabrina has apparently been obsessing over David for years after apparently they innocently kissed as kids. She gets so depressed about her feelings that she even tries to commit suicide, but because she apparently sucks at life, she fails at that.
I have to stop here and say that, from a mental health perspective, Sabrina really displays some obsessive issues here. However, considering this is meant to be a comedy and farce (plus a movie from the ‘50s), I feel it can be excused (even if it can be viewed as misogynistic). There is going to be more crazy stuff that pops up in this movie, but it all works in context.
Sabrina’s father sends her to Paris for culinary school. She returns months later a changed woman. Sabrina is confident, sophisticated, and stylishly attractive. Naturally, David becomes immediately attracted to her. With her newfound take on life, Sabrina fully intends to take David for her own. However, there is one catch: David is getting married, and this marriage is the linchpin for a business deal that David’s workaholic brother, Linus (Humphrey Bogart), is trying to close. Sabrina is a complete threat to this.
After David accidentally injures himself, Linus concocts a plan. Linus pretends to support David’s desire to be with Sabrina and agrees to spend time with her in David’s stead as he recovers. What David doesn’t know is that Linus really plans to seduce Sabrina in attempt for her to no longer be interested in David. Linus will then ditch Sabrina by convincing her to run away with him to Paris – only he won’t be on the boat when it leaves.
Linus is a horrible person. I think that is kind of why I like this movie. This is a real evil plan designed to manipulate and hurt others for personal gain. Not that I support this type of behavior in real life, but I like the comedy that can spring from it. Modern shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia do the same thing, only with a modern extreme. Sabrina would be the modern extreme of this kind of humor for 1954.
Anyway, after spending time together, Sabrina does start to fall for Linus. However, in a twist that surprises no one, Linus begins to fall for her! Eventually, all is revealed, David steps up his responsibility for his family’s business (in, come to think about it, what is a sham marriage – I wonder if the bride knows about this?), and Linus meets up with Sabrina as they head off to Paris together.
The Verdict? Sabrina is a great movie. Everything moves so well. The characters are fun and believable (at least in the world this movie depicts). Bogart particularly shines here (then again, he’s good at everything). You like who these people are even if they are doing incredibly questionable things. I love how the movie presents these characters being open and willing to do somewhat terrible things. Sabrina wants to destroy a potential marriage to live out a childhood fantasy (which, between having too high of expectations and David’s womanizing, would only end in disappointment and/or disaster), and Linus wants to manipulate this love-stricken woman into leaving the country.
This is all done in a light-hearted manner, of course. However, I love the extra layer this movie gives for people like me who likes to dig deep into what these characters are doing and what that actually means. Maybe I am looking too needlessly deep into it, but I don’t care. I love this stuff anyway.
Worth Seeing? You bet! I completely recommend this film to anyone. While it has a bit of a slow burn by today’s standards, it is never dull. I think modern audiences will still get a lot of enjoyment out this film.
There is a 1995 remake of this film. I have not seen it (although Harrison Ford as Linus and Greg Kinnear as David seem like perfect casting choices), but I have it on good authority that it is absolutely terrible. Check out the original instead.