Directed By: Billy Wilder
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart
Sabrina, the chauffeur’s daughter, grows up in the shadow of the Larrabee brothers on Long Island, then the playground of New York’s old money. Linus Larrabee the taciturn work addicted older brother hardly notices that she exists, but that doesn’t bother her. David Larrabee the thrice married, thrice divorced playboy younger brother hardly notices her either, and this drives poor young Sabrina to despair. To save Sabrina from certain heartbreak her father sends her off to culinary school in Paris. Two years later a young woman returns that Linus and David can’t help but notice.
The movie opens with the a moonlit introduction to the Larrabee estate. In a voice over Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina explains that there are many servants on the estate including gardeners for the grounds, specialists to take care of the tennis courts and swimming pools, a boatman to care boats and a chauffeur who was imported from England many years ago with a new Rolls Royce to care for the cars. After our introduction to the Larrabee estate we are shown the chauffeur and his daughter Sabrina washing the now not so new but well cared for Rolls. Sabrina continues in the voice over explaining that tomorrow is the annual six meter boat race and that the Larrabee’s have had a party every year for the last thirty years the night before the boat races. It never rains on the Larrabee’s party. We see the party from Sabrina’s point of view as she lies on a low lying branch of a tree between the main house and the garage. Finishing up with the Rolls, her father comes over and tells Sabrina that she should go to her room and finish her packing for Paris and culinary school, but Sabina stays a few more minutes to watch William Holden playing the dashing David Larrabee. She sees David sneaking out of the party with a bottle of champagne to meet one of the guests in the indoor tennis courts for a little private dancing. Sabrina despairs of David ever noticing her and instead of finishing her packing writes her father a short note requesting that David not be allowed to attend the funeral and returns to the garage to start the engines in all eight cars without opening the garage doors. Luckily for Sabrina, and us for otherwise this would have been a short depressing movie, Humphrey Bogart playing Linus Larrabee, shows up to save her. Sabrina gives him a silly excuse for being in a garage full of running vehicles and Linus thinking of her as a silly little girl believes her.
When next we see Sabrina she is in Paris learning how to crack an egg. Her mind still occupied with David he is not faring well. She struggles through the four week course in sauces and even by the time the class gets to soufflés she is still struggling, but Paris and a wise old Baron attending the soufflé course eventually bring her out of her despair. Two years later she returns from Paris a confident and self assured young woman, with a plan. Her plans get a jump start when her father is late picking her up at the train station and David driving by sees a beautiful young woman standing at the station and literally screeches to a halt and begs her to let him drive her home. David not recognizing her is shocked when she directs him to the Larrabee estate, not understanding until the servants all rush out to welcome Sabrina home. David is smitten and invites Sabrina to a party the Larrabee’s are hosting that night. It seems that Sabrina’s plan is going well, but David is engaged. His marriage is going to cement an important merger for Larrabee Industries and Sabrina is liable to foul the deal. To save the merger Linus plans to steal her affections long enough for David to get married. Of course his plan backfires when he too falls in love with Sabrina.
Like most love stories this one is predictable but the fun is in the journey not the destination. The fun is only marred by Linus’s awkward wooing. At times it’s hard to believe that Sabrina doesn’t see right through him, but she doesn’t and the story unfolds. Holden and Hepburn are play their parts to perfection. Bogart on the other hand is never quite as believable but not to an extent that it ruins the film. Due to Bogart’s stiffness you never quite understand it but because of Hepburn’s sincerity as Sabrina you never doubt that she falls for Linus’s machinations and is torn by her affection for the two brothers. To be fair to Bogart his scenes with Holden are quite good. They are a great pair, Bogart’s straitlaced Linus and Holden’s playboy David. This is Holden’s third movie with director Billy Wilder and a bit of departure from, Sunset Boulevard and Stalag 17, the first two films they did together. With Wilder’s usual genius the film is well paced and shot beautifully.
The DVD is presented in full screen which nearly matches the original aspect ratio of the film. This restoration of the film is unbelievably sharp and clear. There is not a trace of dirt or scratches from the print and the amount of detail is simply amazing. I never detected any kind of compression artifacts either. It’s simply stunning.
The audio is presented in the original mono in English, French an Spanish with subtitles in the same. The audio has been cleaned up as well but the improvement is not as dramatic as the improvement in the video. The mix is simple and uncluttered with the score never overpowering the dialog. There is a bit of hiss and pop during a few quiet bits, but never enough to cause any annoyances. In fact I doubt I would have noticed it if I haven’t been listening for it.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The two disc DVD edition comes in a standard dual disc Amaray case with a colorized shot from the film of the three principles in formal dress. The Amaray case slips into a nice cardboard case that is styled to match the other titles in Paramount’s Centennial Collection. The second disc contains seven featurettes ranging in subject matter from the fashion of Audrey Hepburn to the the cameras of Paramount. They are all entertaining and worth watching if a little uncritical. The only omission is some kind of commentary.
A delightful love story starring three of Hollywood’s most iconic stars, what’s not to love.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10