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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Sabrina

Starring: Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond
Director: Sydney Pollack
Rated: PG
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: December 1995
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Greg Kinnear, Nancy Marchand, John Wood, Lauren Holly, Richard Crenna, Angie Dickinson, Fanny Ardant, Dana Ivey

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

SABRINA is a surprisingly delightful and fresh romance. I went to this show solely because my wife wanted to see it. I suspected and feared it would be one of the shows so sweet it could induce a diabetic attach, but was surprised at what a naturalness SABRINA has. It is a show that quickly worked its charms on me for many reasons, but most of all for the acting by Julia Ormond and strangely enough for her makeup (Joseph Campayno) - more on both of these later.

The tale of Sabrina has been done before and many critics have complained that the 1954 version was such a trivial film that there was no point in producer and director Sydney Pollack doing a remake. After seeing this version, I disagree strongly. This movie touched me, and I'm glad I saw it.

Sabrina (Julia Ormond) is the daughter of the chauffeur (John Wood) of the billionaire Larrabee family. Sabrina and her dad live over the garage, and she spends her time watching the Larrabee parties. The family estate is picture perfect as are their parties. As Sabrina puts it, "It would never rain on the night of a Larrabee party. They would never allow it."

She has an undying crush on David Larrabee (Greg Kinnear), but he pays no attention to her. He falls in love with Dr. Elizabeth Tyson (Lauren Holly). His brother Linus (Harrison Ford) is a workaholic as is his mother Maude (Nancy Merchand). Linus sees a merger opportunity with the company owned by the Tyson family, Mr. Tyson (Richard Crenna) and Mrs. Tyson (Angie Dickinson), because of the upcoming marriage.

A disappointed Sabrina leaves for Paris stating the show's frequently mentioned notion, "Paris is always a good idea." I'll second that. When she returns, she is changed forever and both brothers fall for her. Well, sort of. It is this love triangle that makes up the body of the show.

Although many things are special about this picture, first and foremost is Julia Ormond's acting. I have not been a fan of hers before. I thought she was acceptable but no better in LEGENDS OF THE FALL. In SABRINA she is brilliant. I found her performance flawless and would love to see her nominated for an Academy Award for it, but I am sure the members of the Academy will view the movie as too light weight for such consideration. Her character has two stages in the movie, the immature girl with the crush, and the fully developed beauty. She plays both in an understated natural way that is absolutely captivating. Just the way she walks and carries herself says so much about both stages of her character.

Sabrina is created by a marvelous makeup job. In her youth she has a more natural look and has long wavy hair. When she returns transformed from Paris, she has short curly hair with stunning makeup. Her clothes (Ann Roth) are also transformed so that the commoner has more impressive clothes than any of the pseudo-royalty at the Larrabee party on the night of her return from Paris. Maude's gown in contrast is horribly overdone with a large purple sash, and Mrs. Tyson's is a plain white frock that could be found at any Goodwill store. When Sabrina walks into the party, she is so beautiful that the audience is almost gasping, "oh my God!" She is transformed from a lovely youth to a knock down dead gorgeous woman. It would have been easy to overdo this, but Ormond gives a child like innocence to even her adult role. One of the most compelling performances I have seen this year.

The other actors are not as good with the exception of Greg Kinnear who looks a lot like Gary Sinise. Kinnear is perfect as a naive rich kid, okay, young man, but he acts like a kid. There are many wonderful scenes in the show, but my two favorites are when he runs into but does recognize Sabrina and his dance with her that evening. The first is hilarious and the later incredibly romantic.

Harrison Ford starts off acting like he wishes he had not agreed to make the film, but as the movie progresses he warms up to his role. Angie Dickinson pathetically overacts in the few scenes she has. Richard Crenna, who has been great in many a TV movie, is wasted here as he so frequently is. See, for example, his silly role in JADE. Nancy Merchand gives a mixed performance as the mother, sometimes she is funny and other times she overdoes it.

Some of the minor actors are quite good. John Wood as the chauffeur is a lovable character. Dana Ivey as Linus's secretary is really cute. When she and Maude have to go through his clothes drawer Ivey says, "We were up to our elbows in your underwear drawer. It was like the Shroud of Turin." The script by Barbara Benedek, David Rayfiel, and Samuel Taylor is both romantic and funny.

The dreamy piano music by John Williams adds to the ambiance of the picture and makes you ready to fall in love with Sabrina. The lighting is particularly impressive. Watch how it caresses Sabrina's face making it seem to glow from within. The cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno takes advantage of this lighting to create a beautiful film to watch as do the expensive and impressive sets by Brian Morris.

SABRINA runs a brisk 2:04, but it feels like a much shorter movie. The movie is incorrectly rated PG. This is a G movie as there is no bad language, sex, nudity, or violence of any kind. If your kids are old enough (8?) to be interested in romance, they would like this film. I am not fond of the term "date movie", but if the term means anything, it would certainly apply here. Although the movie is perhaps not great art and it does have flaws, I strongly recommend everyone see Ormond's performance and catch the rest of this show as well. I give it ***, and if the Ford's performance had been better, I could easily have given it more.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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