rating: (out of 4 stars)
United States; 1954
Directed by Billy Wilder; produced by Billy Wilder; screenplay by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor, Ernest Lehman
Starring Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Walter Hampden, John Williams, Martha Hyer
In my humble opinion, Audrey Hepburn is the most perfect thing ever seen on the big screen. Everything she stars in, is elevated to higher levels, and 'Sabrina' is no exception. Fortunally Humphrey Bogart has the same power when it comes to male characters, and having Billy Wilder to direct these two is not a bad thing either. Maybe Hepburn and Bogart could not get along very well in real life, and he might be thirty years older than she is, but on the screen both stars shine. Without them this film would have been a simple romantic comedy, now it is brilliant in hiding the truth that 'Sabrina' is only a mediocre film.
That said, the film is funny and charming and there is basically nothing wrong with it, but its main drive is star power. Compare it to the best of Wilder, Bogart or Hepburn and this film does not come near. Its premise loans from the "Cinderella"-story, with Hepburn as Cinderella, in this case named Sabrina. She is the daughter of a chauffeur (John Williams), an employee of the rich Larrabee family, and has a crush on David (William Holden), one of the two sons. He is the womanizer of the famly. The other is Linus (Bogart), a more serious man, taking care of the business almost alone.
Sabrina sees her love unanswered by David, goes to Paris for two years, returns all grown up and suddenly David falls for her. He is getting married with another girl, important for Linus since her family owns a company he wants to do business with. Linus needs to take Sabrina's attention away from his brother, with the usual climax as a result. Bogart and Hepburn have their first romantic moments around an hour into the film, which is unusually long for a film like this.
Basically that's it, in every aspect of the word. Hepburn makes every scene she is in enchanting. Since that is in almost all of them, the film is just that. Wilder is of course very familiar with a story like this and the comedy bits, both in physical action as in dialogue, appear naturally. Even for today's standards the film works good. It's more engaging than many of the modern romantic comedies and therefore a better pick for a good old time. Like I said, there are even better examples from the same period, or with the same stars, or from the same director, but 'Sabrina' is a delightful way to start.
|Review by Reinier Verhoef