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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

"A front seat, a back seat..."
"I like to think of life as a limousine," says Fairchild, the chauffeur of the wealthy Larrabee family and father to Sabrina. "There's a front seat, a back seat, and a window in between." Unfortunately for Fairchild and his world view, his daughter wants to climb into the back seat with the youngest Larrabee, David.

Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) has grown up on the Larrabee estate, watching David (William Holden) as he grew up alongside her. Now she watches him at the society parties on the estate from the tree overlooking the veranda as he seduces young socialites. Hoping she'll get over David, Sabrina's father packs her off to cooking school in Paris.

When she returns with a new haircut, a new outlook, and a new dog (but no talking black cat!), David does the predictable thing: he falls for her. Unfortunately for the Larrabees, David's newfound affection for Sabrina puts a damper on their plans to marry him off to a fellow mogul's daughter (thereby furthering a merger). Linus (Humphrey Bogart, in a part originally intended for Cary Grant), David's older brother and the current head of Larrabee Industries, decides to woo Sabrina away from David in order to salvage the deal.

It's just not a Bogart movie
unless he gets to shoot something.
This film might better have been titled Linus, but that would be a really stupid title for a movie. Still, it is Bogart's character who does the majority of the growing as the film progresses -- he's the one who initiates most of the action, he's the one who ends up with the girl, and he's the one who turns from heartless corporate raider to romantic fool. Sabrina remains who she is from the time she returns to Paris. That she eventually falls in love with Linus is a by-product of his transformation, not an indication of hers. Had Linus done nothing, she probably would have married David, assuming that his family would stand for it.

The class conflict perceived by Fairchild and the elder Larrabees isn't much of an issue for the younger characters. It is, as they point out, twentieth-century America, where rags-to-riches stories are legend. The real problems lie in Sabrina's shallow infatuation with David and, once she has gotten over that, Linus' inability to admit his own feelings to himself. Linus is so screwed up over his newly-awakened emotions that he nearly ruins both his relationship with Sabrina and the merger.

"Come with me if you want to live.
Uh, I mean, that's a lovely dress you have on!"
Humphrey Bogart is simultaneously the best and worst person to play the part of Linus. His ice-cold delivery makes him convincing as a tycoon, and makes for a startling contrast when he turns emotional. But his previous roles as worldly-wise, love-cynical gangsters, mercenaries, and roughnecks caused us to goggle our eyes unbelievingly at his mopey lovesickness toward the end of the film. It's tough to divorce an actor like Bogey from a screen persona reinforced so many times in so many different movies. That he should later try to be weepy in the face of the queen of weepy roles, Audrey Hepburn, only makes him look more ridiculous.

Bogart's placement in Sabrina was so distracting that we found ourselves resorting to a tried-and-true tactic to determine the real focus of a movie. In these cases, we devote our mental resources to figuring out which character is the android from the future. Unfortunately, Sabrina didn't respond well to this kind of analysis, even when Bogart unexpectedly emptied a revolver while standing in his office. It's funny: Sabrina had well-written snappy patter, quirky supporting characters, and not once did anyone hop onto a Harley or outrun an exploding fireball on foot. It's not like modern films at all.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 7/13/98

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