Sabrina (1995) Sidney Pollack

Production Budget: $58 million

Gross: $53 million

Sabrina is about a chauffeur’s daughter who lives at the household of a very wealthy family.  She has a childhood crush on the playboy son David (Greg Kinnear) but he doesn’t pay any attention to her.  Sabrina goes away to Paris and a few years later comes back a beautiful and sophisticated woman.  She still has a crush on David, who is in line to marry the daughter of a wealthy family.  David’s brother Linus (Harrison Ford) is a strict businessman who wants the merger to go forward.  He devises a plan to divert Sabrina’s attention long enough for David to finish his marriage.  What Linus doesn’t plan on in falling in love with Sabrina.

I remember watching this when it first came out and liking it quite a bit.  That was a while back and opinions change I guess.  While this was fresh and fun in my childhood, now that I’ve seen more and have studied more, I see a lot more problems with this movie than I originally saw.  I suppose my biggest problem with Sabrina is with the acting.

I’ve defended Ford in the past, but I have to say he is miscast in this movie. For one the ages are a bit distracting.  Ormond can play a woman in her early twenties but there is no covering the fact Ford (then 53) is old.  Linus and David are supposed to be two young men of roughly the same age but of different mindsets.  It is unbelievable to see Ford and Kinnear (age 32) as siblings, especially when Linus talks about when they were kids together.  He would have been graduating college by the time David is out of diapers.  And I know Bogart was cast past his prime in the role too, but that doesn’t make it right either.

Besides the age difference, Ford just isn’t the right actor for the role.  Linus is someone who is forced into a position in his family.  When his father died, he took up the role of running the business, and acted as a guardian to his more immature brother.  He was probably someone that didn’t have a proper childhood and all he’s ever known is an impersonal business life.  While originally his plans may have involved conning Sabrina into drawing her attention away from David, his personality changes through his relationship with her.  It is by seeing her love of life and her freedom that Linus realizes what he’s been missing out.  At first he was out on a mission, cracks start to form in his purely professional demeanor.  It is a subtle role, but Ford just plays him like a grumpy old man.  Ford looks like he would rather be anywhere else on the planet than on that set.  Moments when Linus experiences joy are like when Mr. Burns finds his true love and we see his tiny black heart give a flaccid pump.  What should be the climax when he realizes he loves Sabrina looks instead like Ford is dealing with mild constipation.  All in all, he is just not right for the role.

I also have a problem with Sabrina.  This is not so much with Julia Ormond (although her performance is a bit uninspired) but with the character itself.  It is like she is stuck in a time portal of what she would be like in the 50’s.  Sabrina is our unthinking Cinderella caught in the middle of a situation she can’t control.  Sabrina’s moral should be “never judge a book by its cover”.  In her teens she is blinded by puppy love; tricked by Nicholas’ sexy exterior.  When she comes back from Paris a more wise and enlightened woman, she should be the one to realize that while Linus appears cold, he has a heart of gold.  Instead, Sabrina is now objectified; only worth attention because now she is pretty.  She has no input on the outcome of things, and is only the subject of attention because of her physical beauty. I suppose I am delving a bit too deep into what should be a rather lighthearted comedy.  But it seems like the writers wanted to add more back story and depth to the characters so I have to be a little more critical of the result.

This movie isn’t all bad.  There are some funny and lighthearted moments with the supporting cast.  Kinnear especially has some of the funnier lines and exchanges.  The dialog can also be smartly written at times despite my wishes there was a better actor delivering it.  There were times when I thought the movie would win me back over.  Sadly there just isn’t enough for me to say I was entertained.  I don’t think Sabrina is a bad movie.  But upon further review it is a lot more bland than I first remember it.  Ford’s performance, and the failure to really bring this subject to modern times makes this more a disappointment than a bad movie.

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