As big and bold and as clichéd as it is, after watching Funny Face, audiences would not have it any other way as it charms its way into the heart with endearing performances from Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn and a little comic relief from Kay Thompson. Directed by Stanley Donen and written by Leonard Gershe with a plethora of songs from George and Ira Gershwin and former MGM stalwart Roger Edens, Funny Face is unapologetically Hollywood, a musical much like the many that came before it and would be one of the last before viewers would eventually tune in to other genres, though they would stick around for a few more years yet.
The story concerns Thompson and Astaire who work at Quality Magazine and who are in need of a new model, one who has both beauty and brains. That leads them to a bookstore down in Greenwich Village and to Hepburn’s character Jo Stockton – an unassuming bookworm who in truth is Cinderella. What follows is the fairly standard formula of boy meets girl, the two liking each other but playing around the edges with it, finally noticing it, getting together, having a fight and sort of breaking up but then realizing that each loves the other and rushing to be together as the movie ends on a kiss. Again, it is a standard Hollywood romance and while it has been seen many times previously, Astaire and Hepburn have good chemistry between the two of them – the former just as suave as ever and the latter as charming and as lovely as can be.
Helping to move things along are quite a few musical numbers, four of them from the original Broadway play including the title song, He Loves and She Loves, Let’s Kiss and Make Up and S’Wonderful. Astaire delivers as only he can, both in song and dance and he has a magnetism that would serve him well the entirety of his career, drawing the eye and the ear and refusing to let go. Thompson is a powerhouse on Think Pink! and Clap Yo’ Hands, not to mention helping to buoy up collaborations with the main stars while Hepburn does her best alongside the other two, which turned out to be quite good after all was said and done. As it would turn out, most of the songs were either romantic – those sung between Hepburn and Astaire or comedic in nature, usually whenever Thompson would enter the picture and despite the obvious difference in material, they went together quite well and would make the film better for it.
While the movie would be centered around its two biggest stars, much to the detriment of all those in the supporting cast, enough cannot be said about Thompson’s contribution as she was the glue that held them all together, her character Maggie Prescott providing everything that they did not. What is most intriguing about Thompson and her role in this film is the fact that it would only be her second on-screen performance and also her second-last performance, preferring to do anything else but act in movies, which as it turned out would be a lot. Still, as much as Hepburn and Astaire draw the eye, so too would Thompson and there were a few moments where it seemed as if she would overshadow the two, usually during their collaborative songs.
Today, sixty-plus years after its initial release, the film is as timeless as ever and its colours brighter and bolder thanks to high-definition which is a definite must when watching this picture. Though it had always looked and sounded good, thanks to today’s technology, it is almost like watching an entirely different film. More evident is the age difference between Astaire and Hepburn because of this, but if they did not mind or the audiences of the time, it should still matter very little. As it is, Funny Face is an exceptional movie thanks to the talent involved both in front of and behind the camera and if in need of a picture that will enchant its viewers, it will do the job quite readily.
5 out of 5