Astaire loves Hepburn's... Funny Face (1957)
It was 2008. My sister and I were wandering around Target aimlessly. Naturally, I gravitated to the movie section -- I was about a year into my obsession with classic films, and I was still in that phase where every old movie I found, my heart burst because I never saw it before and I was so excited that a mainstream place like Target would have it and therefore acknowledge that my adoration wasn't all in my head, that others enjoyed it as well and my growing passion wasn't a lost cause. I still get a twinge of that every now and then, but nothing like when I laid eyes on Funny Face in that Target aisle. Fred Astaire was already one of my favorites, and of course I knew about Audrey Hepburn but I had really only seen Roman Holiday. Finding out that these two megastars had made a movie together blew. my. mind.
And yet, for some reason, I didn't buy it. Somehow my sister talked me out of it and the second we left the store, I regretted it. And I let my sister know how upset I was for three days straight. On the fourth day, my dad was driving us by Target when I began my tirade again and, bless that man, he offered to stop so I could buy Funny Face. You could have seen my sister's eye roll from outer space, but the joy I felt when I had the DVD in my hands at the checkout line is something I relive every time I watch the movie.
This is all to prepare you for the immense praise I'll be heaping on this film. Granted, on my blog I hardly ever talk about movies I don't like, but Funny Face is really something special and timeless. You have eternal icons Astaire and Hepburn, the incredibly sweet music of the Gershwin brothers (with additions from Roger Edens and Leonard Gershe), the most beautiful clothes from Givenchy, and the always impressive setting of Paris. However, the one thing that repeatedly strikes me at every viewing is just how gorgeous this film looks. I have never seen a movie, classic or modern,
that looks like this one. I think we need to credit two people with that: Stanley Donen, the brilliant director, and the film's inspiration/visual consultant, photographer Richard Avedon. The compositions and ideas in the "Think Pink" montage and the images during the opening credits both have his fingerprints all over them, and it makes the movie truly unique. Without Avedon's direct involvement, I'm not sure Funny Face would be quite as enduring as it is.
"Think Pink." Cue the delightfully wacky montage! "Think Pink" demonstrates the power of Maggie and her position as someone high up in the fashion industry. It's something that still goes on today, although maybe not as far-reaching. We've all seen the
wouldn't be caught dead!" I want to be Maggie
Prescott when I grow up.
Dovima) is trying too hard to look smart while she gazes at a statue, frustrating Dick.
Maggie bursts onto the scene and agrees that it just doesn't look right. Maybe a change of scenery would help, like a bookstore? Everyone piles into two taxis and search for "one of those dreary little places in Greenwich Village," Maggie picking the Embryo Concepts bookshop. The group swoops in and takes over the shop, angering the clerk, Jo Stockton (Hepburn).
Confused by what she feels after the kiss, Jo wonders "How Long Has This Been Going On?" One of the joys of Funny Face is that no one was dubbed -- it's a Hollywood miracle! Audrey may not have had the finest voice, but not everyone can be Judy Garland or Doris Day. I happen to really enjoy her voice, and yes, I'm one of those who is outraged by what they did to her on My Fair Lady.
Back at Quality headquarters, Maggie talks about her newest idea, the Quality Woman. "She's got to have pizzazz!" It can't be just any model, it has to be someone new and fresh. Dick enters the room with his nomination for the title: Jo. Horrified but willing to give Jo a shot, Maggie tells Dick she'll consider it if he brings her blow-ups of her shots from the bookstore.
She then has her secretary place a large order at the
It also helps when he begins singing "Funny Face."
Once their plane lands, our three stars sneak off to do sightseeing without telling each other; after all, they don't want to look like common tourists!
"Bonjour, Paris," a fun travelogue that makes you yearn to join them. I'm definitely listening to this song as I arrive in Paris, whenever that will be. By song's end, Maggie, Jo, and Dick bump into each other at the Eiffel Tower and have a good laugh at their failed slyness.
"Basal Metabolism" is a part of Audrey's legacy that people seem to only vaguely know the details about; they've seen the posters and they recognize the outfits, but that's about it. You might know "Basal Metabolism" from a Gap commercial that aired years ago that featured Audrey's dancing set to AC/DC's song "Back to Black."
The number is eccentric, to say the least. Eugene Loring's choreography matches the bohemian setting to a T, and while the dance had my sister scratching her head when she watched it with me in 2008, I loved it. Audrey gets to be weird and it's tremendous.
"Let's Kiss and Make Up" to Jo beneath her balcony. There's a bull, a great trench coat, and Astaire with an umbrella involved, so check it out.
The next day, Jo makes good on her promise to show up at Duval's, where she is transformed into a high-fashion model. To be honest, whenever the Big Reveal comes, I'm never that impressed -- there's really not that much of a difference between Bookworm Jo and Chic Jo. Audrey looks completely natural as both of them, so...
Anyway, while Duval and his team work on the
here. I put my own screenshots of it at the end of this post, per usual.
On the last day of the photo shoots, Jo is made up like a bride and posed outside of a sweet country church. Something is wrong, though -- Jo admits she feels "dishonest" pretending to be a bride, when really she's sad that her time with Dick is almost over. Standing alone by a river, Dick realizes that Jo is in love with him. Initially surprised, he believes he feels the same way. "He Loves and She Loves" is an exquisite number, filmed dreamily with swans in the background and lots of soft focus. This is all movie magic, of course. In reality, the ground was horribly muddy, making the dance very hard to do. At one point, Hepburn joked "Here I've been waiting twenty years to dance with Fred Astaire, and what do I get? Mud!" Being professionals, though, you can't even detect a trace of their discomfort in the scene. It all comes off beautifully.
"How to be Lovely" in preparation for her introduction as the Quality Woman to the press. It's laughable that someone has to coach Audrey on being lovely, but the gals sell the hell out of the song. It's adorable, really. Eventually, the night before the show arrives, which is when Jo is supposed to meet the press. She's all dolled up and ready to go, but while waiting for Dick to pick her up, she hears that Prof. Flostre is speaking at a cafe.
She decides to peek in real quick and is shocked to discover that Flostre, played by Michel Auclair, is younger and more handsome than she expected. Looking darling in her black and white polka dot dress and blue coat with matching gloves, Flostre practically licks his lips as he flirts with an unaware Jo. Jealous, Dick drags her out and tells her that the philosopher isn't interested in her mind.
Thanks to the bad press, Duval's collection and Maggie's magazine will be ruined if the fashion show doesn't go through. Jo is nowhere to be found, but Maggie's secretary gathers from Jo's phone messages that she'll be meeting with Flostre at his home, a den for beatniks. Donning their best bohemian clothes, and ridiculous facial hair for Dick, he and Maggie infiltrate the house by pretending to be followers of Flostre's visiting from good ol' Tallahassee, Florida. They see Jo be led upstairs by Flostre, but to keep up their ruse, they have to perform something like the rest of the beatniks have. Their number, "Clap Yo' Hands," is such a treat. Astaire fakes playing a guitar and doesn't even try to do it correctly; Thompson is a fierce ball of energy; the lyrics are almost nonsensical. If anyone ever needed proof that Ms. Thompson was a supreme talent, they should look no further.
Having pacified the crowd, Dick and Maggie burst into Flostre's room where he's obviously attempting to seduce Jo. After accidentally causing Flostre to fall and hit his head, Jo orders Dick to leave. He does her one better by declaring he's going back to New York immediately. Once alone again, Flostre's motives are undeniable and Jo is forced to knock him out to escape.
She hurries to the fashion show to apologize to Dick,
"S'Wonderful" in celebration.
Nominated for Academy Awards for original screenplay, best cinematography, costume design, and art direction, the film lost in all categories. Of all the nominations, I can't believe it lost for its costumes. (The winner? Orry-Kelly for Les Girls.) While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, Funny Face is not to be missed. If you can't find one thing you like about it, I don't think I want to know you.