Monday, April 7, 2008

Charade (1963) ~ A Second Chance

My co-worker and friend, Frank, was taken aback by my 2 out of 4 stars rating for the Grant/Hepburn classic Charade (1963) (see post Movie Overdose). I didn't quite get it when I watched it and promptly taped over my recording of it with other things. But since then I thought that this film deserved a second chance and I was willing to give it one. For my Screenwriting class, I decided to read the script and do a one-page response in hopes that I could appreciate this film for what it is. And lo and behold, I did! Here is my response for class.

I never quite understood this movie but because it came up on very high recommendations, I thought I'd give it another try by reading the script. One of the things that I believe draws people to this film is it's visual appeal. Alps, Paris, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, museums, outdoor cafes, boat rides on the Seine. It's all very glamorous. The script is written in this style too. Lots of setting descriptions as well as visual depictions and character renderings. This story is driven by witty dialogue. The repartee between the two main characters, Peter and Reggie, who are falling for and fighting with each other at the same time keeps the story interesting. It is also at its core a mystery. I realized that a mystery needs visual clues as well as spoken ones to function. A description of an empty apartment, various passports, writing on the carpet next to a dead body, etc. Plus we need to be tricked. A good mystery should have us thinking one person is the culprit and then have us fooled until Act III when we learn who it really is. The protagonist, Reggie, is absolutely clueless about everything that is going on but since she's so in the thick of things she is forced to feel her way around situations. What drives her is her basic gut instincts about people. I think in this way the audience has more of a connection with her. Almost as if we felt beholden to take care of her because she is in such a vulnerable position. And we start to dislike people who we think are working against her (Peter) and people working for her (Bartholomew) only to have things switched up at the end! Also, what keeps it a funny movie as well as a thriller is the absurdity the characters are given. Reggie's dialogue is absurd which gives it a comedic element in contrast with the life-threatening situation she's in. After reading the script, I came upon a new found appreciation for this classic.

1 comment:

  1. A very nice writeup (and reconsideration)! I agree with you with the glamour being a large part of the appeal of this film. However, I think the strength of the unglamourous character actors (the three "bad guys" and Walter Matthau) also form a large part of Charade's appeal for me. My favorite moment in the film occurs when Reggie absent-mindedly grabs another of Bartholomew's cigarettes only seconds after having lit the first one. Bartholomew is incredulous: "Do you have any idea how much those things cost?" That plus the extended pause he takes as he recovers from the shock is priceless. I look forward to reading the scrip you forwarded!


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