Audrey Hepburn received her second Best Actress nomination for playing Sabrina Fairchild a young girl falling for a businesman in Billy Wilder's romantic comedy, Sabrina. I think that Audrey Hepburn received the least votes from the five ladies as she won the previous year, starred in a very lightweight comedy. The genre was good to her as she won for Roman Holiday, but the competition was quite weak that year. But 1954 was all about Grace Kelly and Judy Garland.
Sabrina is quite probably the most entertaining movie of the five. It has some sentimental and soappy moments, but everything is so full of the wit and quick humor of Billy Wilder, that I quite easily overlooked these flaws and I really enjoyed this delightful experience. That directing nomination was not very worthy (come on, George Cukor got nothing for A Star Is Born). The acting is quite good too, but not very towering. Humphrey Bogart gives a very strong and memorable performance despite being a bit miscast, his early scenes are simply excellent. William Holden is quite good too, but sometimes he was too over-the-top.
Oh, Audrey, dear, beautiul, amazing Audrey. She had such shining beauty and real acting talent (unfortunately directors preffered her beauty to her acting talent). If there's one real superstar, a true icon in motion picture history, then it's quite definitely Ms. Hepburn. She really had style, grace and she solved even the silliest scenes with such dignity and dedication. Nowadays she's criticized for mostly relying on her charm, but I do not blame her for that since her roles demanded that from her (just look at The Nun's Story how many emotions she can create).
The role of Sabrina is quite definitely neither the best nor the most memorable one in Audrey's career. The movie itself is one that you watch at Christmas on TV, when you have nothing else to do, let's face it. Audrey doesn't have big breakdowns or huge acting moments in it. It's really just an easy work solved quite properly and decently. The character seems to be very easy for Audrey, but you can never feel that she thought that it was nothing to her and did not have to care about it. You see the considerable amount of work Audrey put into this performance.
In the very first scenes, Audrey is just like a wild little angel having fun in the garden. She's often referred to as a kind of ugly duckling, but that's not really the case. Simply, Sabrina is just too young to be taken seriously. Her suicide attempt scene is just excellent and very adorable. She wants to inhale the exhaust fume of the car, but starts coughing and then she opens a window. It's so utterly loveable and charming, which is a greater achievement considering the fact that this is actually a suicide scene.
And actually, the best moments of Audrey's whole performance come at the beginning of the movie: like when she forgets to turn on the owen as she cannot concentrate because of her unhappy love life. Audrey is again just charming in those scenes.
However, the biggest flaw of her whole achievement in Sabrina comes after she returns from Paris. Sabrina's change is so sudden and fast that you really just cannot believe it. It's mostly the screenplay's fault, but Sabrina becomes a bit bitchy for a while (she tries to seduce William Holden quite hard and successfully from his bride) which disappears again quite suddenly. I felt that Audrey could have done much better with the development of Sabrina: she made her adorable and succeeded in grabbing the viewer's attention, but she never made Sabrina's changes credible.
Another thing goes against her, which is the screentime. The movie mostly focuses on Humphrey Bogart after a while and Audrey is in the background for some time. Fortunately that goes away, but then she wasn't really able to have an effect on me or make a lasting impression.
Somewhere around the end, she has a very quiet crying scene, when she cooks at Humphrey Bogart's office. I don't know why, but I was just so moved by her. Although that scene wasn't very pushy and came very subtly, it really had an effect on me and I just felt some warmth in my heart. It was just excellent. And if I'm talking about warmth, then I must mention how great it was to hear her singing La Vie en Rose. Gosh, it was just a piece of Heaven.
So, to sum up, this may not be Audrey Hepburn's best work, but I was utterly charmed and perfectly entertained by it despite its lack of great character development. But I laughed, I was moved, I cared about Sabrina and most of all, I had some kind of an emotional connection to her. First I thought this would be a 3.5, but I said, come on and gave her more for sentimental reasons. This is such a delightful achievement.
So, the final conclusion is due tomorrow! Stay tuned, though it won't offer much surprise, I imagine.