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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Two for the Road

Two for the Road is a 1967 film, directed by Stanley Donen, starring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn as a long-married couple who are constantly at each other's throats. On a trip to the south of France we flashback to many other trips they made through the course of their relationship.

The film, written by Frederic Raphael, who also wrote Darling, was notable for its nonlinear structure, which was (and is still) pretty rare outside of art houses. The film goes from the present to when Finney and Hepburn first met--she was part of a choir group on holiday in France, he a young architecture student, and chicken pox threw them together on a hitchhiking trip that ended in a proposal of marriage.

We also seem them with a very stubborn MG, which ends up in flames, and another trip with his old American girlfriend, her fussy husband, and their impossible child. There's also a trip in which Hepburn has a dalliance with a French playboy.

Much of Two for the Road is darkly comic. We get some great cuts, such as when Finney tells Hepburn she's lucky she will never meet his old girlfriend--cut to them all in a station wagon together. Or when Finney, passed by a car, resolves to never pass a hitchhiker--cut to, well you know.

But the problem with the film is that this wears thin. I started losing interest in the couple halfway through, because I realized that the end would be them staying together (a more honest ending would have had them breaking up, because they were so unsuitable for each other). Finney, in particular, plays an unpleasant character (he creates a stink about room service being late and gets them kicked out of a hotel).

The best sequences are with the Americans, played by Eleanor Bron and William Daniels, playing his specialty--the uptight guy who calculates expenses. They have a spoiled rotten daughter, due perhaps to them observing the rules of Dr. Spock. Bron tells Hepburn that she needs to woo the child, while Daniels tells her that she resents their daughter because she wants one of her own. It's a nice send-up of the new way parents were raising their children, when a good spanking would have done the trick.

I don't know that Hepburn ever gave a bad performance, and she's lovely here, but deserving of a better guy than Finney or the French guy.

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