I have 498 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Charade (1963)
What’s it rated? Unrated for Cary Grant showering with his clothes on, Walter Matthau’s pedo ‘stache and Audrey Hepburn being too adorable for words.
Did people make it? Written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm. Directed by Stanley Donen. Acted by Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, James Coburn, Ned Glass and Jacques Marin.
What’s it like in one sentence? A romantic spy thriller with elements of a screwball comedy tossed in.
Why did you watch it? One of y’all asked me to but, because of the new commenting system, I can’t view the old comments and find out who.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Hepburn plays Regina “Reggie” Lampert, an unhappily married French to English translator for the French government. While away on a ski trip she meets Peter Joshua (Grant), a stranger she’s instantly attracted to. When she returns to Paris, she finds out her husband is dead and there’s a group of shadowy men after something they think her husband gave to her. Peter Joshua shows up to protect her and escalating scenes of mystery coated whimsy ensue.
Play or remove from my queue? I suppose if you’ve never seen it, it’s worth a watch. I can’t imagine it’s going to create any new superfans or anything because it all just feels so familiar and light weight. I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s supposed to feel like, but the witty banter and light-hearted romance mixed with the genuinely dangerous stakes make the film feel tonally schizophrenic at times. All of this criticism almost feels a little silly, though, because the film really only exists in order to put Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn together to make audiences swoon at their easy-going and effortless chemistry. But at close to 2 hours, Charade eventually starts to feel like a chore.
SPOILERS>>>>>>>>>>> As the mystery unfolds and the audience is let in on what the bad guys are looking for, it turns out to be $250,000, which I’m certain was shitload more impressive in 1963, but watching it now just made everything seem small scale. George Kennedy, James Coburn and Ned Glass make for an excellent criminal trifecta, but Kennedy is the only one to really achieve the level of villainy I think the film was going for. Plus, early on we find out that Cary Grant isn’t really who he says he is either, so his muddied relationship with the villains leads to a few too many scenes of exposition over characterization.
None of this would have mattered if the central Grant\Hepburn relationship would have worked better. The chemistry is there, but the script doesn’t ever give us any insight into why Hepburn instantly falls in love with Grant, other than the fact that he’s fucking Cary Grant. Her somewhat pathetically dogged devotion to him really cheapens the strength of her character and (combined with a finale that sees her confronting the dangerous villain by hiding in the shadows and letting Grant to all the work) comes across as more than a little sexist. Grant was 59 when the film was made and Hepburn was only 34, making the romantic angle of their partnership feel a little forced at times. Also, while Grant is consistently charming, Hepburn has a few moments of extreme overacting that are a little bit embarrassing to witness. I don’t think I ever remembered her flailing about so noticeably in a film before. It’s as if her motivation in a few of the scenes was simply “be adorable”.
Again, all of this comes across as sounding like I hated the film, which I didn’t. I didn’t love it, but there’s definitely things to recommend it. I never even mentioned Walter Matthau’s wonderfully bizarre CIA Agent Bartholomew or the lovely way Stanley Donen shoots Paris like he loves it. I wanted a classic while watching Charade and I got a serviceable wanna-be Hitchcockian thriller. I suppose one can do much worse than that.
Do you have a favorite line? While tearing off the filter to her cigarette, Hepburn says “I can’t stand these things…It’s like drinking coffee through a veil.” That’s a real woman, right there.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? I realized halfway through the film why the plot seemed so familiar to me… The Truth About Charlie was Charade’s remake. I wish I had seen them the other way around.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Breakfast At Tiffany’s (a much better vehicle for Hepburn’s adorableness), The Grass is Greener (Cary Grant flick I’ve never heard of), How to Steal a Million (been meaning to watch this for years), People Will Talk (another Grant flick I’ve never heard of) and Naked City (ummmm, I’ve never seen this and for that I apologize).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? It’s funny, but I found myself comparing this film to The Tourist quite a bit, but in a polar opposites kind of way. The Tourist paired Depp and Jolie together for a madcap, old-fashioned romp, but the reason the film didn’t work for me was because they had zero chemistry together, even though the story was pretty great at times. Charade, however, has two leads with flawless chemistry and a story I struggled to become interested in. I guess that makes the films cinematic step-soul children.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 4.2
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 3.0
Can you link to the movie? Anything for you!
Any last thoughts? Maybe if I had seen this movie as a younger film goer or if I’d grown up with it, it would effect me differently. As it stands, I just found it to be a light, soon-to-be-forgotten diversion.
Did you watch anything else this week? Breaking Bad’s season premiere (so, so very good) and Safety Not Guaranteed (one of my favorite’s of the year so far).
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, Rare Exports? No spoilers, but I do want to thank Michael Rabattino for stepping up and doing an excellent job of covering the column. I can’t really talk about it yet, but I have a film project that’s possibly ramping up and my time is becoming a bit more limited, but I’m not even close to shutting down this column. You guys make it all worthwhile, honestly.
Next Week? It’s your call. Outrage? Don’t Go in the Woods? 11-11-11? Rampart?