|The Audrey Hepburn Story
2000 - PG - 133 Mins.
|Director: Steven Robman
|Producer: Kay Hoffman
|Written By: Marsha Norman
|Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Frances Fisher, Keir Dullea, Gabriel Macht and Emmy Rossum
|Review by: Bill King
"The Audrey Hepburn Story" is a made-for-TV movie that chronicles the life of one of Hollywood's brightest stars. Beginning during her early years in Belgium and following her through occupied Holland during WWII, the movie tries gallantly to include many of the details of her life. As is the case with any biopic, certain events are either left out or changed for dramatic purposes. What is consistent, however, is Jennifer Love Hewitt's sincere portrayal of an actress she herself has long admired. Despite what angry fanboys on the internet have said about her, I believe Hewitt was a good choice for the lead. Of course she doesn't look (though she does have a passing resemblance) or sound like Hepburn, but who does? Not Winona Ryder, as some have unhelpfully suggested. Natalie Portman probably could have done it, but she didn't. Hewitt did, and her portrayal isn't bad at all.
Much of the film is told in flashback form. Audrey is on the set of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," struggling through the opening scene due to her dislike of danishes. In between takes, she thinks back to her youth, when she was learning to dance. As she grew up (played by Emmy Rossum in her teen years), she was stuck in Holland during the war, and lost track of her father (Keir Dullea). Throughout these ordeals, the starvation and fear of war, was her mother (Frances Fisher), always looking out for her daughter.
Eventually, we get to the scenes showing us how Audrey got her big break. French writer Collette spotted her and thought she would be perfect for her play "Gigi." About the same time, she received an offer to star in her first big movie, "Roman Holiday." For some reason, the re-enactment of the scooter scene is done against a projector screen. The actual scene was filmed on location. We also see other Audrey movies being shot, such as "Sabrina" and "The Nun's Story."
The movie focuses mainly on Audrey's desire to start a family and get back in touch with her father. She marries Mel Ferrer (Eric McCormack), but tragedy strikes when an accident on the set of "The Unforgiven" causes a miscarriage. Soon after the accident, she does reunite with her father in Ireland, but the scene is handled awkwardly and they part ways, apparently never to see each other again (not true in real life). Maybe scenes clarifying their relationship were left on the cutting room floor.
Jennifer Love Hewitt makes Audrey out to be a compassionate and generous person, but who had problems in her personal life, just like anyone else. Whether concerned for needy children while on the set of "The Nun's Story" or excited over her Academy Award, Hewitt gives us a believable portrait of someone in those situations. That's all we could ask for, isn't it? There are many dissenters on the internet who have made hideous comments about Hewitt's performance. Their rantings usually involve comments comparing Audrey Hepburn's charm and elegance with Hewitt's lack thereof. This completely misses the point. Hewitt portrays Audrey in between takes and in her personal life not seen by anyone except those close to her.
Audrey Hepburn certainly did not act in character every waking moment, did she? She didn't act like Sabrina Fairchild or Princess Ann when talking to her husband, her directors, her mother or her father. What we have seen in Hepburn's movies were performances. There are very few re-enactments in "The Audrey Hepburn Story," and therefore few opportunities to see if Hewitt could actually capture the magic that Hepburn possessed. The only people who can say for sure are her friends and family who have seen this movie. This is Hewitt playing Hepburn, not Hewitt playing Hepburn playing Holly Golightly.
That is why "The Audrey Hepburn Story" works. For the record, I do believe Hewitt is talented. Her choices of movies haven't always been good ones ("I Still Know What You Did Last Summer"), but I did like her in "Party of Five." Despite changes that the movie makes concerning the actress' life (most biopics do that anyway), this is a loving tribute to Audrey Hepburn, and a good movie.