Archive for Michael Auclaire

Funny Face

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Mystery Man


Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is a fashion magazine publisher and editor, for Quality magazine, who is looking for the next big fashion trend. She wants a new look for the magazine. Maggie wants the look to be both “beautiful” and “intellectual”. She and famous fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) want models who can “think as well as they look.” The two brainstorm and come up with the idea to find a “sinister” looking book store in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. They subsequently locate a bookstore named “Embryo Concepts”.

Maggie and Dick take over Embryo Concepts, which is being run by the shy bookshop clerk and amateur philosopher, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Jo thinks the fashion and modeling industry is nonsense, saying: “it is chichi, and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics”. Maggie decides to use Jo in the first fashion shot, to give it a more intellectual look. After the first shot Maggie locks Jo out of the shop to shut her up.

Jo wants more than anything else in the world to go to Paris and attend the famous philosopher and professor Emile Flostre’s (Michel Auclair) lectures about empathicalism. When Dick gets back to the dark room, he sees something in Jo’s face which is “new” and “fresh”, and which would be perfect for the campaign, giving it “character”, “spirit”, and “intelligence”.

They send for Jo, pretending they want to order some books from her shop. Once she arrives, they start treating her like a doll, trying to make her over, pulling at her clothes and attempting to cut her hair. She is outraged and runs away, only to hide in the darkroom where Dick is working. When Dick mentions Paris, Jo becomes very interested in that she would get a chance to see Professor Flostre, and is finally convinced to model.

Soon Maggie, Dick, and Jo are off to Paris to prepare for a major fashion event, shooting photos at famous landmarks from the area. During the various photo shoots Jo and Dick develop feelings for each other, and they fall in love.

One night when Jo is getting ready for a gala, she learns that Professor Flostre is giving a lecture at a cafe nearby. She attends, forgetting the gala. Eventually Dick finds her and they get into an argument at the gala’s opening, which results in Jo being publicly embarrassed and Maggie outraged.

Jo goes to talk to Professor Flostre at his home. Through some scheming, Maggie and Dick make it into Flostre’s home. After performing an impromptu song and dance for Flostre’s disciples, they confront Jo and Flostre. This eventually leads to Dick causing Flostre to fall and knock himself out. Jo urges them to leave. When Flostre wakes up, he tries to make a pass at Jo. Shocked at the behavior of her “idol”, she smashes a vase over his head and runs out.

Before the group leaves for home, there is a final fashion show. Jo and Maggie try to get in touch with Dick, who has made plans to leave Paris. Jo does the runway show and before her wedding gown finale, she looks out the window and sees the plane Dick was supposed to be on, take off. Heartbroken, she runs off the runway in tears at the conclusion of the show.

Meanwhile, Dick is at the airport. He runs into Flostre and learns that Jo bashed him on the head with a vase. Dick, realizing how much he cares, goes back to find Jo. He goes back to the runway show, only to find that Jo is nowhere to be found. Finally, after a long search, Dick finds Jo (in the wedding gown) by a little church where they shared a romantic moment during the photo shoot. They embrace and kiss


 One of the most romantic musical comedies to ever grace the stage and screen, and yet this is the first time I’ve ever watched it. Was I impressed, not really, but that is more to do with overhype than a knock on this film.

Funny Face is another vehicle for the immortal Fred Astaire to show off his fancy dancing skills and for audiences to stare in awe of Audrey Hepburn’s timeless beauty.

As with every other musical I’ve watched, the most important thing to ask is are the song’s memorable. Well, with a predominantly Gershwin score, one would think so. However, even in 1957, this wasn’t good enough for Hollywood, and they just had to add stuff in. Ironically, the added songs are the least memorable.

Any film that features Fred Astaire is sure to have at least one breathtaking dance sequence, and this is no exception. I do wish we would have gotten more, though.

As far as the acting goes, it is a bit up and down. Kathryn Hepburn is great, but she seems a bit out of her element. I can’t really tell why. Maybe she was just intimidated by being the presence of Astaire.

Speaking of Astaire, as great a performer as he is, I sort of felt he was too old for this role. It kid of had that creepy old man hitting on the school girl vibe.

The story is great, but then if it wasn’t would this be such a memorable play and musical?

Funny Face is a feel-good film. Is it the best musical? No, but it is surely worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of both musicals and classic cinema. I wish this would have been a bit more faithful to the Broadway show, but beggars can’t be choosy, right? This is definitely a must-see for everyone, so go see it!

4 out of 5 stars