Sabrina (1954)

2011 #22
Billy Wilder | 109 mins | TV | U

SabrinaAudrey Hepburn’s next leading role after her star-making turn in Roman Holiday sees her playing a role that seems almost the opposite: going from European princess to servant girl for a rich American family. She’s still the romantic lead wanted by all the men, though.

My top note for Sabrina is “morally suspect”. Unfortunately I forget why exactly, but I seem to remember it was a variety of character traits and actions that left me supporting no character and disliking what a number of them got up to.

Take Hepburn, for instance. It’s hard to like Sabrina when she remains so stubbornly fixated on her uncaring childhood crush. You just want her to grow up, to see some sense. She goes off to Paris for two years and comes back still in love with him, but this time she manages to snag him. You keep hoping she’s returned wiser; that she’s actually playing with him in some kind of revenge… but no, she’s just finally realising her misplaced dream. A bit of complexity here would’ve been welcomed — it would’ve been more interesting; it would’ve been more likeable.

Then there’s Humphrey Bogart. He plays the brother of said childhood crush, who sets about luring Hepburn away from him. Hm. Hepburn is playing 22; he was 55. At least his character is playing her, pretending to fall for her in order to get her away from his wastrel brother. SabrinaBut it actually feels very mean-spirited — Sabrina is likeable enough that we dislike his machinations. Which means that, for me anyway, there’s no truly supportable lead character. And then at the end he genuinely falls for her, which I found an equally implausible development — as well as seeming totally out of character, it did nothing to redeem what had come before. And he’s old enough to be her dad.

Sabrina has its moments — it’s got a top class cast and director, after all — but I had plenty of problems with it that niggled.

3 out of 5

1 thought on “Sabrina (1954)

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