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Monday, May 26, 2008

Love in the Afternoon

***½ Love in the Afternoon. Romantic comedy.

Directed by: Billy Wilder.
Starring: Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier

We got this from Netflix, part of my quest to watch classics I'd never seen before.

Ariane (Audrey Hepburn) is the daughter of a private detective (Maurice Chevalier) in Paris. The detective has just provided evidence of a woman's infidelity with notorious womanizer Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper). The man declares his intention to murder Flannagan; Ariane overhears and rushes off to Flannagan's hotel to warn him.

Like a lot of young women, Ariane is enthralled by Frank Flannagan's notoriety, and sets about to snare him for herself. She's cleverer than average, though, and plays it exactly right by setting herself up as simultaneously desirable and emotionally unobtainable, innocent and worldly. She makes up a long list of her supposed lovers, and feigns indifference to Flannagan's many peccadilloes, finally arranging with him to get together, no strings attached, whenever he's in Paris.

Flannagan's toast. He falls for the plot hook, line, and sinker. He didn't stand a chance.

Which is lucky for Ariane, because she's not nearly as indifferent as she tries to appear.

The comedy part is top-notch. I loved watching Ariane twist Flannagan around her little finger. (and can I possibly use any more cliches in one review? I think I've set a record) Audrey Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier, and Gary Cooper were all fabulous. Ariane's knowledge of Flannagan's unchanging technique and his reaction to her knowledge was priceless; I particularly enjoyed when Ariane's father confronted Flannagan; and I loved the idea of the innocent but clever young girl outwitting the worldly older man and getting what she wanted.


You knew there had to be a "however"--otherwise I'd have give this much more than 3.5 stars.

I had trouble liking the story and believing the ending. Unlike a lot of reviewers, I definitely believe a young woman would find a much-older womanizer attractive: the lure of taming him would be irresistible to a certain kind of woman, and Ariane is one, even if a 30-year age difference creeps me out.

But it's so much like older romance novels, where dishonesty and trickery snare someone a mate, and it's all okay because it's for their own good, in the name of love. I just can't buy that. A relationship based on falsehoods... how solid can that be? Not very. If the only way he'll be with her is if he believes her to be someone she's not, how much can he really love
her? There's always the theory that the trickery opened his eyes to real love, but I don't believe that, either.

And then there's the fact that his attitude toward women is the more the better, and that women are interchangeable to him. It seems so plausible in the movie that she convinces him to give up his libertine ways, but I give them six months before the novelty wears off and he's back to his old habits.

As a fairy tale, though, it's a lovely movie.

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