And so I stumble across another Billy Wilder picture that I had no idea was a Billy Wilder picture until his name popped up on the screen. It turns out this dude churned out a lot of movies that have stayed pretty famous and kept good reputations 60 odd years later. And of all his movies that I’ve seen, Sabrina definitely falls more on the side of things like The Seven Year Itch than something like The Lost Weekend.
One half of pair of brothers with William Holden, the two are described in the opening voiceover with Bogart, “Linus Larrabee, the elder son, graduated from Yale, where his classmates voted him The Man Most Likely to Leave His Alma Mater Fifty Million Dollars. His brother, David (Holden), went through several of the best eastern colleges for short periods of time, and through several marriages for even shorter periods of time. He is now a successful six-goal polo player and is listed on Linus’s tax return as a six hundred dollar deduction.
While they grew up in luxury, their chauffer’s daughter, the titular Sabrina, played by Audrey Hepburn, grew up in love with their life and in love with David. After a couple of years in France, Sabrina returns grown up enough to finally be noticed by David. Hepburn really is one of the only actresses who could ever play a part like this. When David declares his love almost immediately after her return, and when every man at a party stops dead in their tracks on her arrival, it never seems far fetched. If any women in the history of Hollywood could have that effect, it’s Audrey Hepburn.
David’s infatuation with Sabrina threatens to destroy a $20million business merger, so Linus decides to intervene and stop the two from hooking up. And you’ll never guess, but Linus falls in love with her too.
With almost six decades of terrible rom coms in its wake bastardising so much of movies like Sabrina, no one is going to be surprised by the ending and the path it takes to get there, but it’s how the movie delivers these now old standard devices that makes it work. The comic relief of the Larrabees hen pecked father works every time, the growing attraction between Bogart and Hepburn is totally believable and the schmaltz is never too on the nose.
Really, with two of Hollywood’s greatest screen presences in Bogart and Hepburn (plus Holden isn’t too bad either), and one of the greatest directors of all time, I shouldn’t be surprised by how good Sabrina is, but it really did take me off guard. I just never expected anything that could be described as a rom com to be this watchable.
(Review originally posted Dec 19, 2013)