Break Out the Champagne for Hepburn, Bogart and Holden
Having delighted audiences with her Oscar winning performance in "Roman Holiday", Audrey Hepburn would again do the same in the more than pleasurable romantic comedy "Sabrina" or "Sabrina Fair" as it is also known. And it really shouldn't be a surprise except for the fact that the storyline to "Sabrina" is quite weak, ultimately obvious and if it wasn't for the brilliant performances from Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden would have been just satisfactorily average.
Whilst her father works as a chauffeur to the mega rich Larrabee family, his daughter Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn - Always) has become smitten with David (William Holden - Sunset Boulevard) the youngest of the Larrabee's but he is too busy to notice the shy daughter. Two years later and having gone to France to learn how to cook Sabrina returns a sophisticated young woman and immediately catches the eye of David much to the annoyance of his parents who not only deem Sabrina to lowly to be dating David but also with his impending marriage to Elizabeth (Martha Hyer) it could ruin an important business deal. Unfortunately for David he suffers an accident with some champagne glasses and Linus (Humphrey Bogart - Casablanca) his older and business minded brother steps in to try and sort out the issue over Sabrina, except he in turn starts to have feelings for this delightful young woman.
I won't make any qualms about what I am about to say but quite frankly the storyline to "Sabrina" is weak. A young girl in love with one brother falls for another causing all sorts of issues. Yes there is more to the storyline than just that, with social standing, marriages and business all adding to the various issues but it doesn't disguise the fact it is for the most obvious. From the moment we meet young Sabrina spying on David from a far you know she will always have feelings for him but when Linus comes to the rescue well you know where it should and will end up. Credit where it's due because it plays about with your emotions as you deliberate who Sabrina will end up with despite it being pretty obvious from the start. And that is why from a story point of view "Sabrina" is weak, is obvious and for the most predictable.
But whilst obvious, director Billy Wilder weaves his magical touch on it so it is full of charming and comical scenes which make it a pleasure to watch. From the comical cooking lessons in Paris as Sabrina learns how to crack an egg, through to various tender moments between her and Linus it is masterfully presented to disguise many of the weaknesses in the storyline. And the mastery extends to getting the right balance of comedy and romance so whilst we may laugh at David having glass fragments pulled out of his butt, you get that warm fuzzy feeling as Sabrina starts to realise she has feelings for Linus. And to top it of it is paced perfectly so that there is never a dull moment be it a scene intentionally funny or tenderly romantic.
What though makes "Sabrina" so good are the performances from the trio of stars and as already mentioned Audrey Hepburn followed up her charming performance in "Roman Holiday" with another equally charming performance. It's hard to describe what an amazingly talented actress Audrey Hepburn was but in just a look, the emotion she delivered through her eyes she could convey more than words could ever say. But it's not just the way she emotes emotion through her eyes which makes her performance so good but that she is just delightful, all girly when in love with David yet solemn when things don't go her own way and all of this is on top of a wonderful comic talent, subtle but beautiful. And to add to her performance she also sang the delightful "La vie en rose" which is often used throughout the movie.
But Audrey Hepburn is not the only good performance in "Sabrina" as she is equally matched by Humphrey Bogart as Linus Larrabee and William Holden as David Larrabee. It has to be said that Bogart is perfectly cast as the older of the two brothers, Linus, so focussed on business that he is almost emotionless. Yet in those tender romantic moments he shares with Hepburn that spark of chemistry is stunning and completely believable. And William Holden is not a let down either as his playboy brother David, delivering many of the movies more comical moments including the predictable yet funny champagne glass scene, if you couldn't see it coming you've not watched enough movies. Together all 3 of them work well and it is thanks to their performances and chemistry which makes "Sabrina" such a pleasure to watch, which is quite surprising considering that behind the scenes there was plenty of animosity between the three of them.
What this all boils down to is that "Sabrina" is a delightful and charming romantic comedy which manages to take a rather weak and obvious storyline and turn it into an entertaining movie full of romance and comedy. Much of why it works is the sheer brilliance of its trio of stars Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden who fill "Sabrina" with a quality which in all honesty the storyline probably doesn't deserve.