CATEGORIES Classics, Music & Musicals, Paramount Classics, DVD Reviews, New on DVD, Home Entertainment, Cinematical Indie, Features, DVDs, CinematicalOne of the most iconic actresses to grace the big screen, Audrey Hepburn, stars opposite Fred Astaire in Funny Face, a light-heartened romp about an oh-so-intellectual bookworm who unwittingly becomes the muse for a French fashion designer. Kay Thompson (best known as the author of the Eloise books) has an entertaining turn as Maggie Prescott, the editor of Quality, a fashion magazine. The film has a completely different plot than the 1927 musical of the same name, although it does incorporate four of the George Gershwin songs from the play.
Fred Astaire plays Dick Avery, the fashion photographer who longs for a fashion model who is both beautiful and intellectual, when he happens upon Jo Stockton (Hepburn) working at a bookstore where the magazine descends for a photo shoot. At Avery's urging, Maggie Prescott decides to make Jo the "face" for a new campaign for Quality magazine -- they seek to turn the decidedly unfashionable, book-wormish, headstrong Jo into a fashion icon whether she likes it or not. Before you can say, "how about a rousing song-and-dance number!" the trio are traipsing around the Eiffel Tower singing "Bonjour, Paris" and Dick and Jo are making goo-goo eyes at each other at a photo shoot.
The romance between the pair is the most unlikely part of the film -- Astaire was 30 years older than Hepburn, which made him 58 to her 28 at the time the film was made, but if you can overlook the likelihood of a young hottie like Hepburn going for an old guy who favors ascots, you can kind of just glance past that aspect of the film. The real highlight, for dorks like me who are suckers for musicals, are the song-and-dance routines, the most famous of which is a sexy little Bohemian number Hepburn performs in skinny black pants (Gap famously used Hepburn's dance here as a part of their own "skinny black pants" ad campaign a few years ago). Hepburn was a trained dancer, and reportedly took the role of Jo so that she could dance with Fred Astaire. The choreography throughout the film is fun to watch. For My Fair Lady, which came out seven years later, Hepburn's singing was dubbed over, but in Funny Face it's her voice you're hearing, and she does a pretty decent job of it.
What I especially like about Funny Face is the vivid color palette used in the visual design of the film. Everything is bright, and fasionable, and very glam, and this anniversary edition looks absolutely great. The timelessness of the fashions in the film (and especially, how Hepburn wears them) are so classicly lovely, so glamorous, it almost makes me long for the days when women went everywhere in dresses and heels (unless, like Jo, they were intellectual Bohemians in skinny pants; you'd need a petite figure like Auburn's to pull off that style without looking like an overly stuffed sausage casing). Astaire, at 58, looks dapper and is remarkably light on his feet in the dance scenes -- and there are plenty of them in this film to give him a chance to show his stuff.
There's only one disc in the anniversary edition, but there are a few extras, including a bit about Hepburn's real-life relationship with fashion designer Hubert Givenchy, whose muse she was for most of her career. There's a small featurette in there as well about Paramount's history with musicals (White Christmas is still one of my fave musicals ever). Other than that, though, it's mostly just about the film with this one; if you're a fan of Hepburn or Astaire, this is a great classic film to add to your collection.