Funny Face fashionably dances its way across the Atlantic with an apathetic romance. “How could I be a model? I have no illusions about my looks. I think my face looks funny”. Fashion. Supermodels. Magazines. The superficiality of an industry that applauds exterior beauty without addressing inner vision. Fictional publisher Quality, a corporate entity destined to “Think Pink!”, yearn to merge beauty with intelligence for their next edition. Recruiting a condescending yet charming photographer whom desires models that can “think as well as they look”. Emphasising the substantial distance between these two attributes. What’s the one tool that intellectuals utilise on a daily basis? Books. So they drive to the nearest bookstore and equip its papered environment as a backdrop for the cover, only to encounter a beautiful amateur philosopher, Jo, who greatly opposes the “unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics”. But, after an impulsive kiss between Jo and photographer Dick, a romance begins to blossom before being persuaded to become their cover model and being whisked off to Paris.
Donen is a veteran when directing musicals, and this adaptation of Gershe’s Broadway hit ‘Wedding Bells’ and the Gershwin’s original musical of the same name is as assured as his previous work, including the legendary ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. The Golden Age of Hollywood surrounded itself in romantic musicals featuring an older leading man “getting” the younger female co-star. However what differentiates Funny Face slightly is its altered role reversal. Jo, the enigmatic dreamer who yearns for Paris, visibly falls madly in love with Dick. Whilst the latter naturally embodies flirtation, he never revealed his explicit emotions until the halfway mark, transforming this musical into a female-led feature. It’s surprisingly effective, albeit outdated.
Playwright Gershe adapts his own work into a comedic, characterised and flamboyant screenplay that merges the lyrical ingenuity of the Gershwin’s seamlessly. Various numbers including “Clap Yo’ Hands” and “He Loves and She Loves” creatively amalgamate the scenario that these characters find themselves embroiled in and incorporate sterling choreography that enhance the feature’s seduction. Not to mention the sheer velocity to which the Gershwin’s rhyme nearly ever word in the Dictionary! “Bonjour, Paris!” however resembled a holiday advertisement with its prolonged photographs of famous landmarks, an unusual estrangement to the other tracks.
The characters themselves were fully flourished, particularly head honcho Maggie, and learn the central philosophy behind “empathicalism” that Jo herself preaches. The inherent issue with Jo’s ideology, is that she falls head over heels for the first man who shows her any affection. Love is a complicated emotion, but for someone who is incredibly intuitive and insightful, her progression misses the mark. She opposes fashion and all it stands for, yet we never witness her fall back to her previous state after experiencing the modelling world. Just whisked off into the “S’wonderful” sunset. Her development remains incomplete, and distracts from the “fashion versus empathy” premise.
Fortunately the elegance of Hepburn, who performs a sensationally iconic expressionistic dance number in an underground cafe, alleviates the majority of narrative issues. She sings, dances and acts her way to the top of the fashion world. Astaire employing his usual charm and exercising his essential dancing ability, lending Hepburn experienced support. Thompson slaying the fashion industry with her tyrannical and hilarious gestures, not to mention her fantastic dancing ability. A few shots are messy and seemingly include crew members into the picture, most notably when Hepburn is staring at the bookshop mirror and a silhouette is moving in the background, but small technical criticisms regardless.
Funny Face remains a “S’Wonderful” and “S’Marvelous” picture that highlights the infectious talent of its stars. Whimsical in nature, assured in execution. Aside from underwhelming character progression and various technical faults, Donen’s musical hits all the right notes that is sure to make you “Think Pink!”.