Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Leonard Gershe
I knew that this was basically a rom-com starring Audrey Hepburn but I didn’t really know another thing about it. Imagine my pleasure when the movie started and it appeared to be the 1957 version of The Devil Wears Prada, set in a fashion magazine headed by a formidible lady. I watched this with Will and Anna.
They’re having some trouble with a shoot and so go on location to a bookshop where works the stunning Ms Hepburn as intellectual book store worker Jo Stockton. Talk about your meet cute, Fred Astaire’s photographer shoves a rolling ladder along the shelves which she is standing on – dressed in brown and blending into the background.
Also it’s a musical, did I mention that already? Because it is and there are not just songs but also extended dance numbers. The best of which being the weird ass Jo expressing herself in modern dance bit in the Parisian Bohemian bar. This is after she’s basically told Dick that he’s a caveman, because women shouldn’t have to wait for men to ask them to dance, if they want to dance they can ask a man or just do it. They’re not restricted by boring old social norms.
Jo is reluctant to be a model although she is spotted by the talent scout/agent. She’s much more concerned with being intellectual, and her goals in Paris are to attend lectures and talk to the bohemians about philosophy.
The sequence where Audrey runs from the fashion ladies to escape a forcible makeover was quite wonderful. She runs into Dick the photog again and he convinces her that despite her claim that she’s got a funny looking face, or possibly because of it, she would make a great model.
It’s an important trope of musicals from this sort of era that the leading lady be smitten with the leading man, even when he has been somewhat tasteless or gauche with her. Mostly I was distracted by Dick’s blue socks with slip on shoes… but as Will pointed out he was more or less insulting her when he collected her from the bohemian club. He makes it up to her with an elaborate ‘let’s kiss and make up’ song below her hotel window.
I realised part way through that this is the movie that Chris takes Lorelei to watch on the side of a barn in The Gilmore Girls. I kind of hate Chris and that ship but I didn’t let it affect my enjoyment of the film. It’s charming.
Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. Not just because Jo reminded me quite a lot of my dear friend Celeste. Fred Astaire’s really the one with the funny face, in my opinion, but he’s pretty sweet too. His character isn’t particularly interesting or different to regular male leads of the time but then he does exactly what he’s supposed to – he’s a charming foil for Audrey to shine against. The story is entirely about her and the movie doesn’t pretend anything else.
Much like in Singin’ in the Rain there’s a long extended dance number with Dick and Miss Prescott pretending to be Bohemian to get in to see Jo. They lost me during this number to be honest.
Bechdel test: Yes, almost immediately and then again and again. Marion speaks to Miss Prescott, Miss Prescott talks to Jo, and they talk many times over the course of the movie. It’s very satisfying to watch an old movie which is so forward thinking … well, I guess the story isn’t necessarily but the politics are in there anyways. Plus yay, named women who speak to each other.
and look at how wonderful this song and dance is…
although it did rather remind me of this clip…
Random bohemian: I feel a hostile vibration
Dick Avery: That’d be me.
Dick: You are mad aren’t you?
Jo: No, I’m not mad. I’m hurt, and … disappointed and.. mad!
State of Mind: The movie was a lot better at the start than the end. The late – end of the film kind of… lost my interest. Maybe it’s just because there was (people are watching me type this and it’s putting me off) maybe it’s just because there was interesting Winter Soldier stuff on pinterest I dunno, but the first half of the movie is much more fun than the last part.