What does Judge Clark Douglas think of this flick? 'S okay.
Our reviews of Funny Face (published May 29th, 2001), Funny Face: 50th Anniversary Edition (published December 3rd, 2007), and Funny Face: Centennial Collection (published January 13th, 2009) are also available.
'S Wonderful! 'S Marvelous!
Somehow, this is the fourth time Stanley Donen's Funny Face is being reviewed for this website. That's an awful lot of double-dipping for a film which is little more than a pleasant trifle. Why have the folks at Paramount returned to this particular well so very often? Who would actually feel a need to watch Funny Face four times, much less buy four different versions? Ah, well. At least this latest round represents the film's first appearance in HD, which certainly highlights the strong visual elements.
Our story begins with Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson, The Kid From Brooklyn), a fashion magazine editor who decides she's going to shake things up a bit. After declaring that pink is officially "in" again, she begins a search for a model who will redefine modern beauty. Thankfully, her trusted photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire, Swing Time) conducts a photo shoot at a local bookstore where a gorgeous young woman named Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's) happens to work. Dick thinks Jo is just the model the magazine needs, but Jo disagrees—she thinks she has a "funny face" (hence the film's title). After much debate (and learning that she'll get a free trip to Paris), Jo finally agrees to be a fashion model. Much merriment ensues, and the photographer begins to develop feelings for the model. Alas, she has her heart set on a mysterious French intellectual (Michel Auclair, The Day of the Jackal).
It's a lightweight premise executed in lightweight fashion, but it must be admitted that the casting undercuts the premise considerably. First of all, it's bewildering that anyone would ever regard Hepburn as anything less than a knockout beauty, but quite a few characters spend quite a bit of time commenting on how odd and unconventional she looks. What? Secondly, the romance between Hepburn and Fred Astaire is less moving than it ought to be given the huge age gap between the actors. Yes, there was a similar age gap between Hepburn and Cary Grant in Charade (also helmed by Stanley Donen), but somehow they managed to conjure up enough chemistry to pull it off. Hepburn and Astaire just seem mismatched, and the contrast between Hepburn's radiant, fresh-faced beauty and Astaire's weary visage proves too distracting. On top of all of that, Astaire's character is required to act like a selfish, anti-intellectual, sexist, jealous jerk for much of the film's second half, so it's kinda hard to root for him to actually succeed in his quest to woo his conflicted model.
All of that stuff aside, Funny Face has its superficial pleasures. Hepburn's natural charisma goes a long way towards making the film an enjoyable experience, and the musical numbers benefit from energetic, inventive choreography. The film shares its name with a 1927 musical penned by George and Ira Gershwin, but the plot is entirely different and the film only retains four of the songs from that musical (filling out the rest of the soundtrack with other Gershwin tunes plus a number of tunes penned by Roger Edens). The songs are respectable enough, I guess, but most of them are also instantly forgettable. Save for the semi-iconic "'S Wonderful," there's little on the soundtrack which you'll be humming long after you've seen the movie. It's unsurprising that the film flopped with audiences and critics upon its initial release. It regained a bit of popularity when it was re-released in the wake of the universally beloved My Fair Lady, but believe me when I say that Funny Face doesn't even approach the entertainment value and richness of that film.
Funny Face (Blu-ray) has received a robust 1080p/1.78:1 transfer which certainly does a fine job of accentuating the film's colorful visuals. The movie probably works best as a visual showcase for the gorgeous locations, elegant choreography and handsome production design—it's as slick as you could expect a big studio musical to be, without a doubt. Detail is pristine throughout, colors have a lot of pop, depth is strong and the light amount of natural grain present adds some real warmth to the image. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is rather front-heavy, but at least it sounds bright and clean throughout. It fares best during the musical numbers, naturally, but the dialogue scenes are just fine. Sound design is on the low-key, spare side. Supplements have been recycled from previous releases of the film: five featurettes ("This is VistaVision," "Kay Thompson: Think Pink!," "Fashion Photographers Exposed," "The Fashion Designer and His Muse" and "Parisian Dreams") which run about 80 minutes combined and a theatrical trailer.
I found Funny Face to be well below the standards of the best Hepburn, Astaire, and Donen musicals, but the movie certainly has its admirers and always looks terrific. The Blu-ray release gets the job done nicely.
Guilty of failing to provide material worthy of the talent involved.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Other Reviews You Might Enjoy
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2014 Clark Douglas; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.