Humphrey Bogart was the grayest character from all the people in “Sabrina.” Audrey Hepburn as the young naive daughter of a chauffeur for an aristocrat family was charming and vivid, even before she went to cooking school to Paris. The playboy member of the rich family, whom she has an almost everlasting crush on is of course amusing and larger than life. Even her father, played by John Williams in a sentimentally caring way is more interesting than the family’s older brother who keeps the many industrious businesses running. Bogart was visibly bored most of the time. Even though according to the script his interest in and love for Sabrina slowly grew, I thought they had no chemistry at all.
I noticed two continuity errors fairly early in the movie I kept thinking there would be more. But as the story progressed I got too engaged with it to find more. (The two errors that popped in my eye/mind: Sabrina slips her suicide note under his father door but we don’t know what happens to it after she survives the attempt. In the suicide scene two doors get opened to save her, but when they exit the garage only one is still open.) Having said the above I had to admit there were plenty of funny moments to make up for these goofs. Cooking in an office kitchen, hanging one’s bottom in a transparent plastic hammock, examining the height of a line of souffles, recounting three failed marriages…
Beyond being a funny romantic comedy Sabrina also has an interesting, multilayer-ed social message. The “reaching for the moon” comes up several times a cautionary advice from the father who is worried that her daughter might hope for stepping outside of her lower, social class. Early on, Sabrina’s reaction is “he moon is reaching for me,” showing her optimism, that the social divide can be breached with the help of the other side. Later thought when she is somewhat hopelessly says “I might as well be reaching for the moon,”, her colleague at the cooking school, who happens to be a Baron replies, “Have you not heard? We are building rockets to reach the moon!”. This is more aligned with the overall message of the movie, suggesting that modernity breaks down the barriers. Meanwhile the chauffeur father is very clear of his place: “I like to think of life as a limousine. Though we are all riding together we must remember our places. There is a front seat and a back seat and a window in between.” But Sabrina jumps in a two-seater sport-car, where the window doesn’t even exist.
A major theme of the movie is making fun of the old fashioned aristocratic lifestyle. The Larrabee family, for whom Sabrina’s father works for, made their wealth through various industrial enterprises, but created a lifestyle mimicking that of old-fashion European nobility. The moviemakers cleverly used this anachronism as a source for a lot of the humor.
This was a great old movie. Not just because of the enchanting Hepburn ad the clean fun it provided, but also because it reminded me to think about class issues from a historical perspective.
IMDB’s summary: Linus and Davis Larrabee are the two sons of a very wealthy family. Linus is all work — busily running the family corporate empire, he has no time for a wife and family. David is all play — technically he is employed by the family business, but never shows up for work, spends all his time entertaining, and has been married and divorced three times. Meanwhile, Sabrina Fairchild is the young, shy, and awkward daughter of the household chauffeur, who has been infatuated with David all her life, but David hardly notices her — “doesn’t even know I exist” — until she goes away to Paris for two years, and returns an elegant, sophisticated, beautiful woman. Suddenly, she finds that she has captured David’s attention, but just as she does so, she finds herself falling in love with Linus, and she finds that Linus is also falling in love with her.