I hope you are familiar with 1954’s Sabrina, staring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. It is one of my favourite films!
I don’t usually enjoy watching romances, but there is something about this one that just makes it so magical and lovely. I’ve seen it so many times and can’t get enough of it.
So recently I discovered there was a remake in 1995 with Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford. They changed the story quite a bit, keeping about 4 lines from the original script. I get it: they adapted it to 90’s fashion, humor and expectations. So all the subtle jokes, uber-romantic and almost honest looks and AMAZING style vanished. I don’t like romantic stories for a reason, but I enjoy old movies for much more than just the main story. Still I can try to give you a fair, without too much judgement, review and comparison.
Let’s start with the main (original) story: “Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some thirty miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate.”. There lived a very successful family named Larrabee: a couple with two sons. The parents ran a huge company that was handed down to both sons. The oldest son, Linus, dedicated his life to his work; while the youngest, David, wanted only the good life. He never committed to anything: work, studies, girlfriends. As the family was very rich they had a lot of servants living in the estate with them, including a chauffeur, Thomas Fairchild, who had a daughter, Sabrina. Growing up with both Larrabee boys she spent all her life obsessively in love with David, who barely noticed her existence. When she is old enough her father decides to send her to a cooking school in Paris. Two years later she returns confident and sophisticated. Looking attractively different, David runs into her by chance and, without recognising her, tries his charm on her. By the same time David happens to be engaged with Elizabeth Tyson, set up by his brother in order to close a huge deal with her also very successful father. As an attempt to keep Sabrina away from David, Linus tries to gain her affection so he can convince her to elope with him. In amidst their time spent together they truly fall in love, ruining Linus’ original plans. I won’t say how it ends! 😉 You have to check it out by yourselves.
Hepburn and Bogart are a surprisingly great couple and you can feel true chemistry. Although in reality Bogart complained constantly about Hepburn’s inexperience and wanted his own wife to be cast as Sabrina. On the other hand, Holden and Hepburn really had a love affair during the rolling of this film.
The characters are engaging and relatable. Even the servants of the house are so loveable. Although the story is centered on a love triangle, this version doesn’t make it feel like such a drama, under covered by such glamour and comedy. This movie actually marks the beginning of Hepburn and Givenchy’s friendship and let me say what a debut! All of her outfits are so gorgeous and iconic. I still dream of being able to someday wear that organza embroidered gown.
Style was practically dismissed in the 95 remake. I understand that they had to use 90’s fashion, but I think it lacks a lot of personal style. It was indeed a strong stand: women showed their equality to men by dressing in more androgynous styles. But that takes away the beauty of she returning transformed into a Parisian beautiful butterfly. (Do I have to say again that Hepburn was styled by Givenchy?) But the original idea of the costume director, Ann Roth, was exactly to make it look more realistic, something that the modern woman would use herself everyday and not stuff made of dreams. But in this version, Sabrina studies fashion photography with Parisian Vogue, not cooking, so I simply expected something more.
As for Ormond and Ford, I won’t say their characters were poor, but they just weren’t as imposing as the originals. Bogart as Linus is so sure of himself, even when he isn’t sure, portraying himself as this untouchable cold hearted business man, while Ford as Linus is suddenly more sentimental and dramatic. He shares his emotions even without Sabrina asking him about it, trying to show off how incredibly lonely, but loveable he is. It just seems like he is trying too hard. And should I start with Ormond? I’m not even going to compare her to Hepburn (you guys know she is my personal idol). Her performance simply annoyed me as she acts, either as young or (supposedly) transformed/grown up Sabrina, like she lacks all sense of confidence and self-esteem. It all reminded me so much of the first Princess Diaries transformation; and when she is transformed we don’t get that feeling that she is truly enjoying mocking with David’s feelings for a change and just gets lost in all the emotion. I believe she (her character!) lacks presence as a woman; wasn’t that the whole point of her having an abroad experience?
But seeing all other characters in a more modern light was interesting: Elizabeth as a pediatric doctor (a successful woman of her own merit, not just the daughter of a rich father), Baron St. Fontanel as Sabrina’s lover (as was expected in the first film), a sassier Miss Mcardle, Mrs. Larrabee as the head of the Larrabee Company (again the idea of women emancipation) and there is not a sight of Mr. Larrabee; only some mentions, so we assume he is dead, while in the first film he was quite a fun character.
As the first version is a classic and a personal favorite of mine, I will never review the 1995 remake as it was instantly added to a long list of disappointing romantic films. If you do know and love either one of these films I recommend you to view the other version, since it was interesting seeing the updated quality of film making, comparing how characters were supposed to act in the different decades and the style of evolution of women. Yes, it is so much more than just a love story !!
P.S. if you know about any other old movie remakes, please let me know !! Especially Audrey Hepburn classics ❤