Film Flick: Funny Face

Friday, March 22, 2013

Funny Face has many of the hallmarks of a classic Audrey Hepburn film- foreign cities, glamorous clothes and a make-over, an older male lead, and romance, of course. It is considered by many one of her best, and there is much to adore in it. It is not without it's flaws, however, and ultimately it was these that kept me from falling in love as headlong and hard as some of her other works have.


Kay Thompson (perhaps most famously known as the creator of the irrepressible Eloise), plays a fashion editor in need of the Next Big Thing. Photographer Dick Avery, played by sixty-something Fred Astaire, thinks he's found what she's looking for in the "mousy" form of a bookshop employee, Jo. Jo, played by the decidedly not mousy Audrey Hepburn, has other ideas, but agrees to give modeling a try after learning she gets to go to Paris. There she and Avery start to fall in love during the creative process of the photo shoots. During her off-time (and sometimes when she should really be working!) though, Joe meets her idol- a philosopher who is much more young and, well, male than she would ever have guessed! The head and the heart; the creative and the logical are at odds in The City of Love, and it is anyone's guess as to which it is Jo truly wants!

The plot might sound like a fairytale- one that could never happen in real life, but, however implausible it might sound, the story is true! Funny Face's plot was based on famous photographer Richard Avedon's marriage to model "Doe. "As in the movie, Avedon had found an intellectual, if every-day, girl (in actuality, an office girl rather than a bookshop employee), and lured her into the world of fashion with travel. He too transformed her into a world-class model and married her, but they were divorced by the time the film was released. Avedon's influence in the film didn't just stop at the storyline though. Almost all of the photographs in the film were his-including the iconic close up of Hepburn's face in which just her features can be seen. He was also the visual consultant for the film, and added to the cast several real life models including Domiva. And, like in the film, Domiva really did enjoy reading comic books!

With  the photographer who inspired the story also behind the camera lens, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the best part of the film is the visually stunning photo shoot montage. Along with many of Hepburn's most iconic images, the montage also included her famous line, spoken in that lilting accent, "Take the picture!" Beautiful clothes, beautiful surroundings and beautiful people- all this gives the viewers little reason to doubt our two main characters falling in love at this point! It makes even a 30 year age difference a moot point. Also delightful, was the performance given by Kay Thompson. Though she usually kept to behind the scenes as a vocal coach, here she has such vibrancy, that one simply cannot imagine anyone else playing the part, except maybe the real life magazine editors Diana Vreeland of Vogue or Harper's Bazaar's Carmel Snow on whom Thompson's character was based.
No, there were only two real failings of this film, but unfortunately, they were large. The first was, despite being a musical, it didn't feel like a musical, and probably would have moved along  much better without the songs. This seems counter-intuitive. After all, the songs were by Gershwin, and Fred Astaire is and always will be movies' number one dance man! But the songs don't really move the story forward; they stop the action. Plus, while Astaire and Thompson both have good voices and plenty of energy, it must be admitted that Hepburn possessed only an average voice. Not bad, but probably not one that really needed to be recorded and put in the movies either. The other thing that kept me and the film at arm's length from one another was the heroine. Perhaps in this I am overly critical, but even Hepburn's immense charm could not overcome what the plot does with the lead role. Jo is constantly eschewing the world of charm and beauty that Thompson and Astaire are trying to pull her into, which, okay, might not be everyone's cup of tea. But Jo also shows an appalling lack of work ethic or even responsibility  She is constantly missing from work, late to important events, and standing people up. There is a pretty constant lack of regard for other people. She also never really grows or changes in the film, except to fall in love, and, for me personally, this is not enough reason to like her.

What do you think? Does this film charm you, or is Hepburn's Funny Face not enough to keep you coming back to this dreamy version of Paris again and again?


11 comments

  1. So embarrassed to say I've never seen it!! Adding it to my 8000 long to see list!!!

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    1. Haha, my movie list os the same way. I do hope you see it though. I think the photographing and fashion would appeal to any blogger :)

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  2. I love Funny Face. So sweet! I don't think I quite noticed the flaws you're describing. :)

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    1. I'm glad you like the movie and, of course, we have things in films that are pet peeves. I'm glad you don't see the same flaws I do (though, of course, the plot is largely driven by the times Astaire's character has to go find the wayward model who is missing from work. Those are mainly the times to which I refer.)

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  3. Great post...although i haven't seen it...yet! lol

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    1. Hope you do and that you enjoy Funny Face!

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  4. Yay! This is one of my absolutely favorite movies. Mostly I love it for the aesthetic appeal in the way of fashion. I actually like most of the songs, although once you say it I would agree they stop the action of the film. I still love it though :)

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    1. I like one or two (most notably "Think Pink" for Thompson's endless energy and "Funny Face" Even though Hepburn's face is not what I'd call Funny looking at all. Lol, Mr. Gershwin.)

      The aesthetic appeal of the fashion and the photos is stunning, hands down my favorite part. It is always why the real photographer, Richard Avedon's, part in the movie was so interesting.

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  5. I enjoy the background info you give to movies, but your criticism of this movie is actually the best part of the article!

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    1. Thank you, Ginger. Have you seen the film before too?

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  6. loved here!

    xx

    www.aroundlucia.com
    www.aroundlucia.com

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