Monday, January 7, 2013

Why is every Audrey Hepburn movie basically the same?

The other night I settled happily on my couch with an Audrey Hepburn movie. You know the one--a wide-eyed, innocent young Audrey Hepburn falls for a wildly inappropriate, much older man who doesn't seem to know she's alive, until suddenly, he does. Romance ensues.

Oh, wait.
Love in the Afternoon
Funny  Face
My Fair Lady
That's right. That's the plot line of every Audrey Hepburn movie. I came to this realization when I felt myself becoming inexplicably annoyed while watching Love in the Afternoon. I went in expecting to love this movie, because Audrey! and Paris! and romance, oh my! Instead I just found myself saying 'ugh' a lot. 

Synopsis: innocent, young, cello-playing Ariane falls (inexplicably, frustratingly) in love with wrinkled old skin bag and notorious playboy, Frank Flannagan. They spend one passionately chaste afternoon together, she pines, and then when they run into each other again one year later, he doesn't even remember her. Romantic! She then beats him at his own game, inventing and casually name dropping a string of ex-suitors, including alpine guides, bull fighters, and professional ice hockey players. Hey, guess what--now he's interested! Predictability ensues.

And just look at how happy they are together:  
Must be love! Or gastrointestinal distress.
Then I started thinking about other, equally loathsome Audrey Hepburn movie plot lines.

Funny Face: It's Fred Astaire, so the man can dance, but let's face it, he's not much of a looker. Also, thirty years older than her. Bookish, young salesgirl-turned-reluctant model falls in love with her photographer. Basic stuff here.    

Sabrina: At least the leading man is handsome. Nope, I've got no problems with Bogey, at least from an aesthetic point of view. But it does fit the AH film equation that goes: man + 30 years too old + virginal young girl x [doesn't know she's alive] x [something happens] / [she becomes desirable] = LOVE² 

My Fair Lady: Admittedly, I am all about My Fair Lady. The singing! The fancy dresses! The misogyny! Oh wait, right. In this movie we have Rex Harrison as the smug, dubiously heterosexual old windbag, Professor Higgins. (Why can't a woman be more like a man? Oh just get it on with Colonel Pickering, already, Higgins; we know you want to.) The ending of this movie is not satisfying. 

"Eliza, bring me my slippers." (Seriously, that's the last line of the movie. Romantic!)
Breakfast at Tiffany's: The love interest in this movie is a cat, and even he's all wrong for her. Probably about 60 years old in people years, definitely un-neuteured, and he leaves her in the end.  

Charade: Ding ding ding! We have a winner! No longer able to play a virginal young teen/twenty-something, Audrey now plays a mature widow in her thirties. Cary Grant is his usual Cary Grant-ish self. There's a plot twist every thirty seconds. This movie is just about perfect.  

Even the coats are perfect.
What's your favorite, totally predictable Audrey Hepburn movie?


  1. Bogey is hot. To Sabrina, I say, "Get it, girl."

    The only Audrey Hepburn movie I've watched repeatedly is Breakfast at Tiffany's. I liked Roman Holiday. I used to feel like a lot of old movies paired old men with young ladies, but then I thought maybe I was misjudging the leading men's ages because wore their pants around their ribcages back then.

  2. How to Steal a Million is fabulous. And I also love Charade. I can watch those two any time and not have one UGH come out of my mouth :)

  3. Honestly my heart is always with Funny Face. It's so sweet! Paris! The dresses! But I also love Sabrina. My Fair Lady annoys me to no end. That finish!!! It's terrible. I think I read somewhere that there was an alternate ending where Eliza actually leaves the guy and marries Freddie, which is somehow equally disappointing.

    Also, I think even Audrey got annoyed at being type-cast because as she ages (and is no longer "cute") she starts to take on a lot more daring rolls. Have you seen Wait Until Dark?? It's an Audrey version of a suspense film. Definitely enjoyable, if a bit campy.

    1. Just added it to my Netflix. I actually hate scary movies, so we'll see how it goes.

      When I watched Charade the first time I remember thinking, "How OLD is she here? She looks so OLD!" I just looked it up, and she was...34. Ugh. I kind of hate myself.

  4. My favourite Audrey movie is Paris When It Sizzles. William Holden is only 11 years older than her and PARIS.

    I remember watching Funny Face and being disgusted with the Fred Astaire pairing. Not only is he old there, but Ginger Rogers had practically been thrown away by that point. Society is so unfair.

    Also, I love My Fair Lady, but as a child, I always thought the ending was weird. Their relationship was unromantic through out, and I never took his missing her face as being madly in love with her. Then in high school we had to read the play, I learned they didn't actually get together at all, and it made more sense. They probably wanted more romance in the film, but since Rex Harrison had already played the original part on stage, it may have been hard to warm it up.

  5. What about The Nun's Story? I remember her being proud of the role and used it as an attempt to break her type casting.

  6. This is great! I'm learning about new to me Audrey films. They're all going in the queue. Thanks guys!

  7. I've seen many of them. I love Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and Charade. But then again, I have major love for Cary Grant.

  8. Love Love Love Audrey... but you are so right. She played the same "role" in all of her movies.

  9. I never thought about it until this post but you're right!

    By thwe way I am glad I found this blog. I love the questions you ask!

  10. Interesting you should bring Audrey up now. The 20th anniversary of her death is Jan. 20th. Also, I seem to recall that during the last few years of her life she wasn't revered nearly as much as she is now that's she's dead. Strange how that goes.

    The worst part, to me, of Love in the Afternoon are the scenes with the lady and her Yorkshire Terrier, would practically constitute animal abuse now. She was so miscast in B-fast at Tiffany's. She might have been able to pull off playing an innocent young thing, but unsophisticated? Doesn't work. One can try to suspend belief - until Buddy Ebsen shows up and then it's like, WTF?

  11. I love my fair lady, except for on the street where you live which is just stalkerish and totally creeps me out. As a kid, I always used to fast forward that part.

    I love Charade.

    I've always had a soft spot for Sabrina, but I think that's more because of the remake than the original (WHA!?).

  12. UGH, so true, so true!
    But I am a sucker for My Fair Lady, the clothes and the songs get me every time :)

  13. Hitchcock often did the same thing. See middle-aged ex-cop Jimmy Stewart in "Vertigo" falling for the ice blonde Kim Novak. Terrfic movie. Or that well-known murderer of U.N. diplomats, the dashing Mr. Grant, romancing another ice blonde, Eva Marie Saint, on the 20th Century Limited in "North by Northwest" (still a really fine, albeit often implausible, movie). Music by Bernard Herrmann lifts these films above the average, by the way. Frank Sinatra's later movies also followed this theme. Anyway, it was the 1950s and 1960s and old guys always fell for the quirky sweet smart blondes.

    And wasn't Alan Rickman a little old to play the frustrated lover in "Sense and Sensibility" (the 1995 version)? Not that I didn't love the movie, mind.

    Bogart? Give me "The African Queen," "Casablanca," or especially "The Caine Mutiny," with that fabulous final courtroom scene as Queeg literally loses his marbles.


    1. The African Queen is one of my favorites. :)

  14. Have you watched A Nun's Story? Not the same plot. She was magnificent.

  15. How to Steal a Million is my favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. Peter O'Toole at his peak of hotness. What's not to love?

  16. Haven't seen many Audrey films but my favourite is still Breakfast at Tiffany's, I just wish I had her style and sophistication! Funnily enough, I'm writing a dissertation about the plot similarities in Funny Face and My Fair Lady and I happened to stumble across this blog whilst researching! Any views anyone might have about the "transformations" and the "father-figures" being the "culprits" behind this would be great!


    p.s. enjoyed reading your blog! :)

    1. You're writing your dissertation on that? That's awesome! Can I ask what you're studying? I can't believe you found my blog through your dissertation research. :)

  17. I think one great Audrey movie is "The Children's Hour" with Shirley MacLaine. It's such a frustrating movie (you'll understand what I mean when you watch it) and it's a very different role for her compared to the movies you have mentioned.

  18. Yes she played similar roles, but you've also neglected to mention her other roles, which were completely different. e.g. a terrorised blind woman in 'Wait Until Dark', an accused lesbian in 'The Children's Hour', a struggling nun in 'The Nun's Story', a woman going through a complicated and altogether failing marriage in 'Two For The Road' -- none of which revolve round the gaga-eyed ingenue image people tend to associate with her... some of her films were actually very diverse and avant-garde :)

  19. I'm watching Sabrina as I write this and I can't understand her popularity. She is mousy and uninteresting.