Rated PG, 127 min. Directed by Sydney Pollack. Starring Lauren Holly, Nancy Marchand, Greg Kinnear, Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford.
Pollack’s remake of the 1954 Billy Wilder romance movie poses no threat to the original Sabrina’s charm, glamour, and wit. While it can’t hold a candle to Wilder’s film, the updated Sabrina has its moments. Pollack’s film stays fairly true to the original story of Sabrina, the daughter of a chauffeur who drives for the Larrabees, a monied Long Island family. Sabrina (Ormond) has been in love with the younger son, playboy David Larrabee (Kinnear), since she was a child. He doesn’t know she exists. A trip to Paris imbues Sabrina with both style and confidence, and thereby captures the attention of the fickle David upon her return. Now engaged, David must be policed by his older brother Linus (Ford) and his mother Maude (Marchand). In an effort to keep David from ruining his impending marriage and thus an important business merger for Larrabee Industries, Linus squires Sabrina as David’s surrogate. Those of you familiar with the earlier Sabrina know what happens next. For those who may not have seen Wilder’s film, you probably can guess the ending. Ford’s droll performance as the uptight and single-minded business tycoon gives the film its strongest character and some of its best lines. Ormond’s fresh beauty and guileless acting give Sabrina the same ingenue status as the original character although it goes without saying that there can never be another Audrey Hepburn. Additional entertaining moments are played effectively by Marchand as the brusque, elite, but ultimately earth-bound Maude Larrabee, and Greg Kinnear’s reprise of the part originally played by William Holden has its own smug charm. Pollack has made a few changes to keep the film contemporary, and generally these work unobtrusively ñ having Sabrina intern at French Vogue instead of a cooking school, learning photography instead of haute cuisine, making David more of a Nineties celebrity by having him pose for a Gap ad, and so on. However, the biggest problem with this story is that it seems so out of place in the present. Granted, chauffeurs still exist and they still produce daughters, but somehow the extremes in class seem implausible from the beginning. If you can get past what was for me a large stumbling block, then you probably will enjoy the romance between Ormond and Ford. Giuseppe Rotunno’s photography ensures that the visual images are as sweetly appealing as many of the other elements in the film, making Sabrina a little piece of Christmas sugar just in time for the holidays: too sweet for some, but just right for others.
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