1957 - unrated - 103 Mins.
|Director: Stanley Donen
|Producer: Roger Edens
|Written By: Leonard Gershe
|Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson, Michel Auclair and Robert Flemyng
|Review by: Bill King
"Funny Face" tells an uninteresting story with a contrived romantic angle. What makes the film watchable, probably for one time only, are several entertaining dance numbers, designed to put the talents of Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire on display. They have some really good scenes, but those are offset by an unlikable supporting character and a dull plot. This is one of the weakest musicals I've ever seen.
Just fast-forward straight to this great dance scene.
Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) and Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) work for a high-profile fashion magazine in New York City. Kay realizes that the magazine needs a change, so she decides on a new approach. With her model and photography team, Maggie searches the city for a bookstore to go along with her vision, which is to photograph in an ordinary yet intellectual background. She picks out a shop at random, and she and her team barge in to set up, much to the chagrin of clerk Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Jo's protests fall on deaf ears.
After looking at the pictures, Dick realizes that Jo is what the magazine needs. She's a fresh face, lacking the glitz and glamour of their models. Jo is uninterested in the proposal, which is to model for the magazine, but once Dick says they can travel to Paris for a show, she agrees, mainly because she wants to meet philosopher Emile Flostre (Michel Auclair).
The hustle and bustle of the shooting schedule and Jo's dealings with her philosophy provide the main plot threads, and neither carries much interest. These scenes are directed so flatly that the only release from boredom comes from the dance sequences. Hepburn was a trained dancer, and in this film, we can watch how good she really was. She also has a lovely singing voice, which makes one wonder why she had to be dubbed for the superior musical "My Fair Lady. " Fred Astaire is, well, Fred Astaire, and he does an enjoyable routine outside of Hepburn's window.
When these two aren't singing and dancing, we're subjected to a flimsy story. Avery and Prescott liven up a visit to Emile's home with their own song and dance number, in an otherwise uninteresting scene. Jo's photography shoots don't use Hepburn's natural charm, which is a surprise given that she can light up the screen and make it look easy in her best movies. Finally, there's Maggie Prescott, an annoying character who's too pushy for us to care about her in any way. When she barges into the bookstore, and later when she forcefully tries to cut Jo's hair, I wanted to smack her.
"Funny Face" has garnered respect as a great musical from Hollywood's Golden Age, but I think the star power of Hepburn and Astaire hid the movie's faults from a lot of people. Audrey Hepburn is not her usual appealing self, except for a few scenes. Fred Astaire gives an energetic performance, but look what he's surrounded with. The plodding story masks the few pleasures to be found here.