Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I don't mean to sound hyperbolic, but you could show me a film with Audrey Hepburn spending two hours counting dimes and I'd probably still give it a six out of ten. For my part, she's just that mesmerizing to watch. Of course, it doesn't hurt that in this 1957 seductive romantic sex-comedy, Hepburn plays the shy, seductive french (? - well, they say she's french) girl, who lures in the strapping American, Gary Cooper as Gary Cooper, and begins a tantalizing affair.
So, that's about thirty minutes of the two+ hour long film taken care of. What for the rest? Well a lot of montages, waiting for the characters to get back together, and then more seductive talk as Hepburn's character grows into a full woman, and Cooper begins the slow transition process from Master of Debauchery to Love Sick Womanizer. Oh, and don't forget to throw in some Gypsies and Maurice Chevalier for a bit of flavor (not exactly a sentence you get to write every day - shame).
And it's lucky for Love in the Afternoon that it has such a strong cast. Because in all honesty, I love you Billy Wilder, but this one is a bit of a bore. The middle just doesn't end. Once the setup is gone, the movie's footing is swiped out from underneath it quicker than a foot on top of a banana peel in a '30s slapstick film. The scenes were Hepburn and Cooper are apart are just agonizing to watch. It's not that they're bad, but rather that they don't go anywhere. So much rush for the setup only to sit around and wait for the film to roll back around again.
But that's OK, because you get to pass the time staring at one of Hollywood's finest stars. Hepburn may not have to pull off a french accent, but she knows how to work a camera. And few have ever come close to her level. Maurice Chevalier is always a delight to behold. Gary Cooper oozes manliness, even if it does come with a bit too much of the grandpa smell. Then, you have the gypsies, who are a solid recurring gag throughout the whole affair.
Wilder's direction is tame, and lacks the oomph of so many of his efforts. The dark, cynical edged, comedy he so often interspliced throughout his rom-coms is visibly missing from this affair. If it weren't for the opening credits, this film would lack the markers of a Wilder installment. Which is fine in some respects, but I couldn't help but long for that exaggerated zany, anti-romantic sentiment. Yet, what the film lacks in laughs it makes up for in torrid passion. A highly sexualized blend, stirred together using some of Hollywood's finest, and thrown into an era where such talk was far from the social norm. Now that's the Wilder I know and love!
Overall Rating: 7.00/10