Take 3: Funny Face Review (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 2)

For the second part of my Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly double feature, I’ve chosen to review the 1957 film, Funny Face! Last September, when 18 Cinema Lane received 135 followers, I reviewed my first Fred Astaire movie. That was The Sky’s the Limit, which I thought was just ok. Speaking of firsts, reviewing Funny Face is a first for 18 Cinema Lane, as it is the first musical film starring Aubrey Hepburn I’ve seen! Even though I have seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Nun’s Story, those films would be classified as dramas. Since this was my first time seeing Audrey perform in a different genre, I was curious to see if she would be able to hold her own. When I read the synopsis for Funny Face, it sounded similar to another musical starring Audrey: My Fair Lady. Because I haven’t seen that movie, I can’t make a comparison between it and Funny Face.

Funny Face poster created by Paramount Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The one word I’d use to describe the cast in Funny Face is comfortable. I chose this word because every actor and actress appeared comfortable in their role! This presented the characters as if they were real-life people dealing with real-life situations. Watching Audrey’s performance in this movie reminded me of her performance in The Nun’s Story for this reason: her character grows over the course of the movie. In Funny Face, Jo opens her heart and mind to a new chapter in her life that she never thought she’d embark on. She steps out of her comfort to not only follow her dream of meeting her favorite philosopher, but she also creates new dreams for herself. Audrey’s ability to adapt to any scenario helped her make Jo’s journey seem believable! As I mentioned in the introduction, I saw The Sky’s the Limit last September. Personally, I liked Fred’s character in Funny Face more than his character in the 1943 film. This is because Dick Avery had a better personality. He came across as easy-going and approachable, someone who you would want to tour Paris with. This made Dick Avery worth rooting for! Kay Thompson stood out to me as Maggie Prescott! While her character was no-nonsense and straight-forward in what she wanted, she was never cold-hearted or mean for the sake of it. This is different from other characters of this specific type. What’s also different is how Maggie was allowed to be silly, as could be seen when she and Dick are attempting to find Jo at the home of Jo’s favorite philosopher. This gave Kay an opportunity to apply her acting abilities to various situations!

The use of color: I love how color was used in Funny Face! Whenever scenes had a primarily plain color palette, like white or beige, objects or pieces of clothing were added to bring a pop of color to the space. The opening scene is such a great example! Each door of Quality magazine’s office was painted a bright shade of various colors, providing visual appeal to a mostly white lobby and hallway. Maggie’s office adopted a beige hue for about 85% of that location. However, certain pieces of fabric and even an assistant’s green coat add bold colors to a place that would have remained dull without them. This decision to use color was very detail oriented and showed how the film’s creative team really paid attention to how their project would be presented!

The musical numbers: Funny Face’s musical numbers were not only entertaining to watch, they also incorporated creative ideas that made them memorable. The very first musical number, “Think Pink!”, showed a montage of the different ways the color pink could be worn. Through the use of colorful visuals, it helped illustrate the point Maggie was trying to stress to her assistants as well as the audience. “Bonjour, Paris!” showed Maggie, Dick, and Jo simultaneously in a split screen shot. I have never seen a musical use a split screen before, so this detail is the one I remember the most! Each performer in these musical numbers looked like they truly enjoyed what they were doing! “Basal Metabolism” showed Audrey Hepburn having fun performing her dance trio. She appeared in her element and joy radiated from her routine. This definitely added to the overall enjoyment of Funny Face’s musical numbers!

Illustration of Paris, France created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/travel”>Travel vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

No major conflict: While watching Funny Face, I noticed something was missing from this movie. That would be a major conflict, which I think would have made the story a little more interesting. Smaller conflicts, like finding a new face for Quality magazine, kept the film moving forward. But, because a major conflict was absent, it made situations feel like they worked out too easily in the characters’ favor. One idea could have shown Dick struggling to decide if he should continue to be a fashion photographer or become a stage performer. If this would have been a conflict in the story, it would have presented a mystery as to which career path Dick will choose.

A prolonged transformation: Like I said in the introduction, I haven’t seen My Fair Lady. Therefore, I can’t compare the two movies. What I will say about Funny Face is how Jo’s transformation doesn’t happen until the film’s halfway point. In the first half of the story, Jo’s perspective starts to change, allowing her to expand her intellectual horizons. But the physical transformation, from bookworm to fashion model, happens a lot later than most movies of this nature. When a character makes a dramatic change to their appearance, that moment may be the audience’s most anticipated moment. If they are forced to wait too long, they may start to lose interest.

An attraction that happened too quickly: In my review of The Crow: City of Angels, I pointed out how, to me, Ashe and Sarah’s attraction for one another was a flaw of that movie because it came about so quickly. The attraction between Jo and Dick in Funny Face makes the same error, as it also happens too quickly. Minutes after meeting for the first time, Jo and Dick share a kiss. Shortly after this encounter, Jo sings “How Long Has This Been Going On?”, a song about falling in love. If this song had been sung later in the film, after she had spent more time with Dick, the song itself would have been more impactful. Even though it is somewhat predictable for Jo and Dick to form a relationship, it should have taken its time to come to fruition.

With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

My overall impression:

Funny Face is a film I had heard of for years, but had never seen. Whenever I heard about classic films or even movies starring Aubrey Hepburn, this film has, more often than not, been brought up. Now that I have seen Funny Face, I have developed an understanding for why this is the case. This is not just a good musical or a good Audrey Hepburn title. It is a good movie in general! Creative ideas within this project help it stand out. Some examples include using a split screen and incorporating objects with color into scenes with plain color palettes. Musical numbers were well-choreographed, featuring performers that appeared to enjoy the material they were given. Every actor and actress seemed comfortable in their roles, giving their characters a life of their own. While Funny Face does have its strengths, it has its weaknesses as well. Just one example is how Jo’s transformation happens much later in the film. Despite having seen only two of Fred Astaire’s movies, I’d pick Funny Face over The Sky’s the Limit. I would even choose Funny Face over Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen Funny Face? Which Fred Astaire musical is your favorite? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: House of Wax (1953) Review

For KN Winiarski’s 1st Annual Spooky Classic Movie Blogathon, I chose to write about a film that was recommended to me by one of my fellow bloggers. As the title states, I will be reviewing the 1953 film, House of Wax, which was suggested by Patricia from Caftan Woman. This is a movie I’ve heard of, but had never seen. Since the film was released between 1920 and 1960 (one of the blogathon’s requirements), it gave me a good excuse to check it out! Even though I have seen and reviewed three of Vincent Price’s movies, only one of them was released during the Breen Code era. Because House of Wax premiered in the early ‘50s, it allowed me to view more of his films from that time period. Based on the synopsis, House of Wax is considered a “revenge film”. It made me curious to see how this type of story would work within the Breen Code era. I was also interested in comparing House of Wax to a project like The Crow, which I reviewed back in May.

House of Wax poster created by Warner Bros.

The acting: House of Wax is the fourth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen. While I enjoyed his acting performances in The Whales of August, House of the Long Shadows, and Shock, I really liked his performance in the 1953 film! When his character, Henry, is talking about his wax figures, the passion he has for his craft can be seen on his face and in his eyes. Vincent makes the audience feel bad for Henry when these figures and the museum burn to the ground. As time moves forward, Henry evolves into a man of sophistication. Through the power of his acting talents, Vincent makes this transition feel believable. Prior to watching House of Wax, I was not familiar with Phyllis Kirk as an actress. However, I really liked her portrayal of Sue Allen! The emotional intensity Phyllis brought to her role is what made her performance stand out! When she is chased through the city by a murderous criminal, the audience can see and feel the fear Sue is experiencing. This helped raise the intensity of that scene. After she reaches the safety of a neighbor’s house, she immediately bursts into tears. Sue’s emotions show just how emotionally exhausted she is from constantly looking over her shoulder.

The wax figures: Because this film is called House of Wax, a showcase of various wax figures is to be expected. What was unexpected for me was the overall quality of these wax figures! All of them were so well-crafted, they looked like real-life individuals. In fact, there were times when I was waiting for at least one of them to start moving on their own. Throughout the film, facts about the people these figures were representing and the artistic process were shared within the dialogue. One example is when Henry is explaining how he created his Marie Antoinette figure. He tells a potential investor that Marie’s eyes are glass and were inserted through a hallow part of the head before it was attached to the neck. I found this part of the story fascinating! I also wish there was a documentary about this particular art form.

The historical accuracy: House of Wax takes place during the early 1900s, with the time period influencing every aspect of the film. What works in this movie’s favor is how the visuals looked and felt like the time period the film’s creative team was striving for! As Henry’s wax museum is burning, a fire truck appears to put the fire out. A noteworthy point is the model of the truck resembled one from the early 1900s. Another way the time period was reflected was through the set design! The exterior of the House of Wax museum looked like a movie palace from decades past, commanding the attention of passers-by. The beige and red marble alcove leading to the museum reminded me of an outdoor market, with the museum itself selling a form of entertainment to potential customers. These design choices made the overall film feel immersive!

Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The 3D effects: One of House of Wax’s claims to fame is featuring one of the earliest forms of 3D in cinematic history. Any poster of the film and the movie’s opening credits boast this detail enthusiastically. However, the 3D in this movie stayed in 1953. In the scene where Henry opens his House of Wax museum, a spokesperson uses paddle-balls to get patrons’ attention. During his routine, the spokesperson breaks the fourth wall and tells a man in the audience that he is trying to hit his popcorn bag with one of the paddle-balls. When the paddle-ball moved toward the audience, the moment itself looked like it was filmed in 2D. The 3D in House of Wax comes across as an outdated gimmick that felt awkward and out of place.

A protagonist I can’t root for: More often than not, “revenge films” feature a protagonist who represents the opposite of the horrors committed against them. Eric Draven from The Crow is a perfect example. While he kills the villains who have wronged him and his fiancé, Shelly, Eric is fighting fire with fire when his city’s justice system is ineffective. He also chooses to keep his moral compass intact by helping those who are innocent. I won’t spoil House of Wax for those who haven’t seen it yet. But all I’ll say is that as time goes on, Henry throws away his moral compass and takes his mission too far. Because of this, I couldn’t bring myself to root for this character.

Scares that aren’t consistent: There are several moments in House of Wax that are truly unsettling to watch. Seeing Henry’s wax figures burning is just one of them. However, I expected the film to be much scarier than it was. The most terrifying moments happened toward the beginning and end of the movie. Everything in-between felt like a juggling act of darker and lighter moments. Right after Henry’s wax museum burns down, a happy dance party is shown. This feels like a major tonal shift from the ominous tone that was set up in the film’s opening scene.

1st Annual Spooky Classic Movie Blogathon banner created by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes.

My overall impression:

As a movie, House of Wax is good! It is a horror title that relies more on tone and atmosphere. But as a “revenge story”, I feel a film like The Crow does a better job at expressing that type of narrative. One major difference is how the character of Henry is not worth rooting for, as he abandons his moral compass within the course of the film. I found this to be a surprising choice for a Breen Code era film. While it doesn’t overpower the movie, the 3D aspect of the project did not work. It was obvious that 2D filmed moments were waiting for the 3D effect to kick in. Sadly, the 3D failed to show up. I would say House of Wax is an interesting choice for Halloween viewing, as it utilizes wax figures to provide elements of horror. It eliminates the use of blood/gore and has the ability to put the audience on edge.  

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you seen House of Wax? Which film of Vincent Price’s is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Phffft Review + 65 Follower Thank You

Earlier this week, I received 65 followers on 18 Cinema Lane! With my blog’s first anniversary coming up next Saturday, I found this recent gain in blog followers to be a pleasant surprise! As I’ve been doing before, I have chosen to review a film that was released 65 years ago (in 1954). While researching movies with 1954 release dates, one film in particular instantly stood out to me. The reason is because of the title alone. Phffft (yes, that is the real title of this film) is a movie that seemed like it was begging for me to watch and, eventually, review it. So, because of everything I’ve just said, I decided to pick Phffft as my movie of choice this time around. Was this film as funny as this title suggests? I’m glad you came to this review, as we’re about to find out!

Phffft poster
Phffft poster created by Columbia Pictures. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/86629/Phffft/#.

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: I thought the cast of Phffft was good! Judy Holliday shined the brightest with her portrayal of Nina. Her performance appeared very natural as well as believable. I also thought that Jack Lemmon did a good job with his portrayal of Robert. Everything that happened with Robert seemed so convincing because of how versatile Jack’s performance was. Even though this is a movie about a couple experiencing a divorce, Jack and Judy gave a good performance not only as individuals, but also as a pair. Whenever Robert and Nina were together, I always had the impression that Judy and Jack had good on-screen chemistry. In a scene where Nina and Robert unexpectedly become each other’s dancing partner, it looked like they truly enjoyed one another’s company.

 

  • What it means to be a “hero”: During a flashback scene that explains how Robert and Nina met, it was revealed that Robert was a military lawyer. In this scene, his self-esteem has fallen a little bit because he doesn’t see himself as a hero. I found this character choice of Robert being a military lawyer very interesting. In fact, it seems like we, the audience, don’t get many portrayals of military lawyers in film. Besides A Few Good Men, I can’t really think of many movies that feature the importance of military lawyers. Phffft does take the time to show how lawyers can play a significant role within the military. The film does this by having Nina remind Robert, as well as Robert reminding himself, that if he wasn’t keeping an eye on the military’s finances, the military would have lost a lot of money. This message of how a hero can mean different things to different people was a good addition to this film.

 

  • Showing both perspectives: As I’ve already mentioned, Phffft is about a couple who experiences a divorce. In movies where divorce can be found in the film’s narrative, the main perspective is usually given to just one person in that relationship. Also, in movies about divorce, there are times when one person in the relationship is portrayed as an antagonist and the other is portrayed as a protagonist. In Phffft, however, the story is told from both of the perspectives of Robert and Nina. Each side of the story is given an equal amount of time for the characters to grow as individuals and experience their own personal journeys. It also shows an unbiased view of what each character is going through. To me, I thought this was a good story-telling choice.

exploding heart 0912
Breaking heart image created by Kjpargeter at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/broken-heart-valentine-background_1041991.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • Lack of comedy: Despite the humorous title, I didn’t find Phffft to be very funny. While I did chuckle at some moments, there were no moments within the film that made me burst out laughing. I’m not sure if this movie just didn’t correlate with my sense of humor or if the comedic writing in this film was just that weak. But I, personally, found the lack of comedy in this movie to be very disappointing.

 

  • Too dialogue-heavy: In every movie, dialogue is a necessary component to the overall story. However, there is such a thing as too much dialogue. Phffft featured many scenes where characters were having conversations with one another. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough situations and conflicts happening in this movie to balance out the dialogue. Having too much dialogue in this film did not work its favor.

 

  • The premise being too basic: While Robert and Nina’s divorce was the main plot in Phffft, it was the only plot within this movie. Also, I found this plot to be so basic, that the scenarios Robert and Nina get themselves into feel like they were incorporated in the movie just for the sake of keeping the plot going. Like I just mentioned, Phffft didn’t have enough situations and conflicts to balance out the dialogue. To me, this movie needed, at least, one secondary plot in order to keep it interesting. Because of the lack of subplots, it caused the other characters in this movie to feel like they were just there because they knew either Robert or Nina.

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Money plant image created by Dooder at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/infographic”>Infographic vector created by Dooder – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/watering-the-coin-plant_1076121.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

At the end of the day, Phffft was just ok. Because of how funny this title sounds, I was expecting the film to be just as funny. Unfortunately, this movie was somewhat disappointing for me. All of the comedy in Phffft felt weak, almost like it was poorly written. However, I would never say this is a bad film. There were things about it that I liked, such as Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon’s performances. But when it comes to comedies from the 1950s, I think there are movies out there that are better than Phffft. Now that this review is coming to an end, I just want to take the time to say thank you to each of my 65 followers. When I started this blog a year ago, I never expected to receive this many followers in such a short amount of time. It just makes me appreciate all the success this blog has achieved, including the increase in readers and followers.

 

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts about this review? Are you looking forward to the 70 follower thank you post? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen