STUDIO:  Paramount Home Video
MSRP: $14.99
RUNNING TIME:  103 Minutes
• The Fashion Daughter and His Muse
• Parisian Dreams
• Paramount in the ‘50’s: Retrospective Featurette
• Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

The Pitch

Sit back and enjoy a lesser work by some major talents.

The Humans

Fred (Easter Parade, Carefree, Broadway Melody of 1940) Astaire, Audrey (Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady, Sabrina) Hepburn, Kay Thompson

The attention to set design and costuming left very little room in the budget for the film’s dramatic Hepburn versus jellyfish battle.

The Nutshell

In an effort to find the perfect everywoman for the editor of a leading fashion magazine (Kay Thompson), photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire, based on Richard Avedon) happens upon bookstore clerk Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), who exudes the exact balance of intelligence and beauty the magazine is looking for. With the promise of studying under her favorite modern philosopher in France whilst modeling the newest fashions, she goes abroad with the group to become the magazine’s representative. Romance sparks up along the way and the usual complications that separate our leads in the third act of a classically structured Hollywood romance also pop up as well. It’s up to Dick to pry Jo away from the seedy philosopher she’s enamored with for his own heart’s sake as well as the sake of Jo’s magazine-sponsored runway debut.

For thirty bucks more, Glamour Shots would throw in a special Omen package for its more treasured clientele. 

The Lowdown

If I were to tell you that there was a Stanley Donen musical featuring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn with energetic dance numbers, dazzling direction, some of the most loved songs from the Gershwin catalog, and some inspired costume and set design you’d think you have one of the all-time great musicals on your hands, wouldn’t you? It’s strange then that this film doesn’t really mesh into an enticing whole despite it having all of the parts that would suggest a congealed formidable Hollywood musical. Perhaps the whole thing hinges on some sexual chemistry that simply isn’t there between Hepburn and Astaire. They both do solid work in the picture in their own right (although it’s just ridiculous to have one of the most classically beautiful actresses of all-time be told she looks funny), but Astaire is old at this point in the game, so his relationship works best with Audrey Hepburn when he’s simply behaving kindly towards her in a fatherly way without romantic intent or sexual inclinations being a part of the equation. 

Transamerica‘s shift to musical form was surprisingly graceful.

However, the motherfucker still can dance, so it’s no surprise that the highlight of the entire picture is his solo number outside of Hepburn’s apartment in Paris, where he throws down some razzle dazzle with his jacket and umbrella. I think that his singing ability is underrated too, as the man can flat out deliver the emotional content of a song without having a powerhouse voice (also, Hepburn’s voice work on the songs isn’t dubbed!). Hepburn’s dance number in the bohemian night club (immortalized now in a shitty Gap commercial) is actually pretty great as well. The biggest problem in the film is that by the nature of its storyline, it’s a celebration of style over substance and the film just feels kind of vacuous and hollow because of it. Donen directs the shit out of this thing with numerous stylistic flourishes and inspired editing choices that keep the thing moving along even when you’re not entirely interested in where it’s going.

Hepburn was ecsatic upon hearing of the big screen adaptation of Equus.

It’s the type of movie that just doesn’t work, but is still completely watchable anyways.  There are more than enough facets that don’t gel into a whole that will keep you entertained. Some of the most beloved Gershwin tunes are on display here (S’Wonderful, Funny Face, Think Pink): It has that wonderfully Hollywood way of looking at Paris that makes the place seem so goddamn accommodating, there are the aforementioned dance numbers and some truly inspired editing choices that keep this movie zipping along at a reasonable pace. However, it’s not particularly emotionally engaging and thus leaves you with a sort of empty calories meal instead of the five-course meal that all of these artists have left the viewer with in past films. It’s worth checking out for fans of musicals or any of the artists involved, but prepare to be under whelmed unless you’re a set or costume designer, in which case prepare to wallow in delightful excess. A charming but slight motion picture.

Customer service is key at the Don Knotts Palace of Fuck.

The Package

The cover art is expressive of the film’s style and tone and highlights what will more than likely draw in the majority of sales (Hepburn), so it’s good. The movie looks and sounds rock solid, with the bright colors popping and the Gershwin tunes coming through cleanly and clearly. For that alone, if you’re a fan of the vintage studio musicals, this makes it a must buy. However, they’ve sprinkled some featurettes in to justify the ‘50th Anniversary’ moniker: ‘The Fashion Designer and His Muse’ in tribute to Audrey Hepburn and the fashion designer she admired, Hubert de Givenchy. Parisian Dreams glosses over the usage of Paris in Hollywood films (somehow making it seem like Funny Face was the first to do this), a photo gallery (with some nice candid images of the actors behind-the-scenes, the theatrical trailer, and a ‘Paramount in the ‘50’s’ retrospective which amounts to little more than “Hey, we made some movies back then!” Although watching Ten Commandments clips as set to generic 50’s rock n’ roll music could probably be a three-hour DVD release in and of itself. Overall, some fluffy extras to complement a fluffy movie.

6.7 out of 10