SABRINA is a surprisingly delightful and fresh romance. I went to
this show solely because my wife wanted to see it. I suspected and
feared it would be one of the shows so sweet it could induce a diabetic
attach, but was surprised at what a naturalness SABRINA has. It is a
show that quickly worked its charms on me for many reasons, but most of
all for the acting by Julia Ormond and strangely enough for her makeup
(Joseph Campayno) - more on both of these later.
The tale of Sabrina has been done before and many critics have
complained that the 1954 version was such a trivial film that there was
no point in producer and director Sydney Pollack doing a remake. After
seeing this version, I disagree strongly. This movie touched me, and
I'm glad I saw it.
Sabrina (Julia Ormond) is the daughter of the chauffeur (John
Wood) of the billionaire Larrabee family. Sabrina and her dad live
over the garage, and she spends her time watching the Larrabee parties.
The family estate is picture perfect as are their parties. As Sabrina
puts it, "It would never rain on the night of a Larrabee party. They
would never allow it."
She has an undying crush on David Larrabee (Greg Kinnear), but he
pays no attention to her. He falls in love with Dr. Elizabeth Tyson
(Lauren Holly). His brother Linus (Harrison Ford) is a workaholic as
is his mother Maude (Nancy Merchand). Linus sees a merger opportunity
with the company owned by the Tyson family, Mr. Tyson (Richard Crenna)
and Mrs. Tyson (Angie Dickinson), because of the upcoming marriage.
A disappointed Sabrina leaves for Paris stating the show's
frequently mentioned notion, "Paris is always a good idea." I'll
second that. When she returns, she is changed forever and both
brothers fall for her. Well, sort of. It is this love triangle that
makes up the body of the show.
Although many things are special about this picture, first and
foremost is Julia Ormond's acting. I have not been a fan of hers
before. I thought she was acceptable but no better in LEGENDS OF THE
FALL. In SABRINA she is brilliant. I found her performance flawless
and would love to see her nominated for an Academy Award for it, but I
am sure the members of the Academy will view the movie as too light
weight for such consideration. Her character has two stages in the
movie, the immature girl with the crush, and the fully developed
beauty. She plays both in an understated natural way that is
absolutely captivating. Just the way she walks and carries herself
says so much about both stages of her character.
Sabrina is created by a marvelous makeup job. In her youth she
has a more natural look and has long wavy hair. When she returns
transformed from Paris, she has short curly hair with stunning makeup.
Her clothes (Ann Roth) are also transformed so that the commoner has
more impressive clothes than any of the pseudo-royalty at the Larrabee
party on the night of her return from Paris. Maude's gown in contrast
is horribly overdone with a large purple sash, and Mrs. Tyson's is a
plain white frock that could be found at any Goodwill store. When
Sabrina walks into the party, she is so beautiful that the audience is
almost gasping, "oh my God!" She is transformed from a lovely youth to
a knock down dead gorgeous woman. It would have been easy to overdo
this, but Ormond gives a child like innocence to even her adult role.
One of the most compelling performances I have seen this year.
The other actors are not as good with the exception of Greg
Kinnear who looks a lot like Gary Sinise. Kinnear is perfect as a
naive rich kid, okay, young man, but he acts like a kid. There are
many wonderful scenes in the show, but my two favorites are when he
runs into but does recognize Sabrina and his dance with her that
evening. The first is hilarious and the later incredibly romantic.
Harrison Ford starts off acting like he wishes he had not agreed to
make the film, but as the movie progresses he warms up to his role.
Angie Dickinson pathetically overacts in the few scenes she has.
Richard Crenna, who has been great in many a TV movie, is wasted here
as he so frequently is. See, for example, his silly role in JADE.
Nancy Merchand gives a mixed performance as the mother, sometimes she
is funny and other times she overdoes it.
Some of the minor actors are quite good. John Wood as the
chauffeur is a lovable character. Dana Ivey as Linus's secretary is
really cute. When she and Maude have to go through his clothes drawer
Ivey says, "We were up to our elbows in your underwear drawer. It was
like the Shroud of Turin." The script by Barbara Benedek, David
Rayfiel, and Samuel Taylor is both romantic and funny.
The dreamy piano music by John Williams adds to the ambiance of
the picture and makes you ready to fall in love with Sabrina. The
lighting is particularly impressive. Watch how it caresses Sabrina's
face making it seem to glow from within. The cinematography by
Giuseppe Rotunno takes advantage of this lighting to create a beautiful
film to watch as do the expensive and impressive sets by Brian Morris.
SABRINA runs a brisk 2:04, but it feels like a much shorter movie.
The movie is incorrectly rated PG. This is a G movie as there is no
bad language, sex, nudity, or violence of any kind. If your kids are
old enough (8?) to be interested in romance, they would like this film.
I am not fond of the term "date movie", but if the term means anything,
it would certainly apply here. Although the movie is perhaps not great
art and it does have flaws, I strongly recommend everyone see Ormond's
performance and catch the rest of this show as well. I give it ***,
and if the Ford's performance had been better, I could easily have
given it more.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes