Written by Caballero Oscuro
Fifty years after its theatrical release, Funny Face retains its charm and offers a few new revelations.
Unlike Audrey Hepburn’s earliest star turns in the black-and-white classics Roman Holiday and Sabrina, Funny Face thrust her into a vivid Technicolor world awash in vibrant hues. The film’s dramatic use of color is evident right from the beginning scenes in the eye-popping offices of the fashion magazine that makes her a star, and continues through to its elegant Paris locations in the final act. If it’s been a long time since you revisited the film, you’re almost certain to be surprised by its stunning color that puts most of today’s films to shame.
A fresh viewing of the film also points out how much the current TV hit Ugly Betty owes to it. Audrey Hepburn plays a mousy, unfashionable young woman who stumbles into the world of high fashion through her accidental involvement with a fashion magazine, then falls in love with an unconventional member of the magazine’s staff. Sound familiar? While it’s still a classic Cinderella/A Star Is Born story, it’s nearly impossible to avoid drawing the comparison to the current TV show.
Hepburn was in her late 20s during production, while her romantic interest played by Fred Astaire was in his late 50s. This odd pairing still bends all manner of credibility, making it difficult for audiences to invest in their relationship. To his credit, Astaire was still astoundingly spry on his feet, turning in some brief fancy dance moves while mustering up a high amount of charm, but their relationship still seems far-fetched even for the movies.
The film boasted a soundtrack by the legendary George and Ira Gershwin, providing some additional firepower to an already formidable array of talent. While the featured songs aren’t exactly their best work, they add a touch of class and sass that greatly benefits the production.
A brief quibble about the DVD artwork: yes, this is the film that contains Hepburn’s beatnik freakout dance that was the basis for a Gap ad campaign a couple of years ago. We really don’t need to be reminded of that by the prominence of the black-clad Hepburn on the front and back cover, especially considering the brevity of that sequence (and ad campaign) compared to the main theme of the story that placed Hepburn into many memorable and classic gowns. Arguably, Hepburn’s far superior wardrobe candidate for the cover is her exquisite flowing red gown worn while descending a huge flight of stairs during her photo shoot marathon with Astaire, a true knockout permanently seared in the memory of most viewers.
The 50th anniversary DVD includes a few brief bonus features, including a look at the close relationship between Hepburn and the film’s uncredited fashion designer, Givenchy, as well as a retrospective of Paramount Pictures in the ‘50s. Aside from those items, the package is a fairly bare-bones affair that doesn’t take any particular steps to make it a memorable release. Still, fans will be satisfied with this competent presentation of a truly classic film.