Funny Face: Centennial Collection
Hepburn and Astaire say, 'Bonjours, Paris!' in the still-spry Funny Face
Reviewed by Kimberley Jones, Fri., Jan. 9, 2009
Funny Face: Centennial CollectionParamount, $24.99
Adored for her style, her smile, and that lovely swan neck, Audrey Hepburn never received her fair due as an actress. But take a closer look at the still-spry Funny Face: Not once does she break character when Fred Astaire – at 58, fully 30 years her senior – pitches woo to her sunny, funny face. Hepburn co-starred with the greats of Hollywood's golden age – Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant – but she typically got at them when they were way past their prime. Grant purportedly found their age difference of 25 years so unseemly that he insisted Charade's script be revised to make her the pursuer, not him. Charade was the second collaboration between Hepburn and her Funny Face director, Stanley Donen, and 1967's marvelous Two for the Road, which cast Hepburn and a hale, hella sexy Albert Finney as warring husband and wife, was their last; in those three films, which spanned a decade, one could chart the maturation of Hepburn the actress from wide-eyed innocent into something finally, fully adult. In Funny Face – only her fourth Hollywood role – she's all gamine, the bookish Jo Stockton who dreams of philosopher revolutionaries and Paris salons. To get that ticket to Paris, she has to sell her soul, at least a little bit (ah, but Astaire did have a devilish grin); after railing against Quality Magazine's high-fashion frippery, she concedes to a supermodel makeover, knowing full well where the catwalk is situated ("Bonjours, Paris!"). Astaire plays the Richard Avedon-like photographer who discovers her, then remolds her – shades of Pygmalion seven years before Hepburn tackled My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison (another leather face). This time, nobody's overdubbing Hepburn, and her sweet, featherlight take on the Gershwin songbook? S'wonderful.
Also Out Now ...
Breakfast at Tiffany's: Centennial Collection (Paramount, $24.99): It made hash of Truman Capote's source novella – the cynic knows Holly Golightly never had a happy ending in her future, at least not with that milquetoast writer – but it gave Hepburn the chance to show tougher stuff.