I’ve been an Audrey Hepburn fan ever since I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s back when I was 12 years old. Hepburn was just so glamorous and graceful as Holly Golightly that I instantly loved the character. I then went on to watch Roman Holiday and My Fair Lady with equal zest, but then kind of lost my enthusiasm for old films. I’ve recently decided to start up again, however, and picked out Funny Face when at the video store. Not exactly a great choice, but it was watchable!
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Maggie Prescott (played by Kay Thompson) is editor-in-chief of Quality magazine, a fashion and beauty rag aimed at women. She’s under deadline pressure to get out the next issue, but is underwhelmed by the mock-up she’s presented. Maggie thinks that Quality should do something new, give the public something they’ve never seen before. She’s tired of the same old models in the same old poses, and she’s sure everyone else is as well.
So Maggie turns to top photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) for help. She says that she wants her models to have a more intellectual look, which prompts Dick to suggest heading out to Greenwich Village to put their models in a different setting. This might bring about the desired result.
They end up at a philosophy bookstore called “Embryo Concepts”, which is run by a young woman named Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Jo vehemently objects to the use of the store as a backdrop for a modeling shoot, but to no avail. Then later, when the prints don’t turn out quite how Maggie envisioned, she decides that Jo would be the perfect model for Quality magazine — despite her funny face.
The rest of the film then shows how Dick and Maggie attempt to convince Jo to go along with their plans, and how they finally get her over to Paris for a shoot. While there, Jo tries to reconcile her desire to engage in philosophical pursuits with some leading French intellectuals to her heightened feelings for Dick. Love wins out in the end, and Jo and Dick presumably live happily ever after.
My Reaction: Meh, I couldn’t really get into this story at all. I think it mostly had to do with the fact that I didn’t buy the Dick Avery-Jo Stockton pairing, since Fred Astaire was about 30 years older than Audrey Hepburn when this film was made. Are you kidding me? Like a 28-year-old intellectual would fall in love with a 58-year-old fashion photographer? I suppose it’s possible, but just highly unbelievable in the context of the film. I mean, if Avery had been a philosophy professor at NYU or something, I’d buy it. But a fashion photographer? No.
Besides my issue with the age differential between the leads, I just didn’t think the rest of the plot had enough substance to fill up an hour and forty minutes of screen time. So a magazine editor is on a quest for a fresh model? That model is reluctant about getting into the biz because she somehow thinks it compromises her philosophical principles? I don’t know… just too boring.
Also, who in their right minds would think that Audrey Hepburn has a funny face? Clearly she was beautiful right from the start, even when she was just a simple shopkeeper. Turning her into a model wasn’t quite the incredible transformation it was in My Fair Lady when she was a poor, lowly “guttersnipe” before being discovered by Prof. Higgins.
Overall, I’m not sure that Funny Face is suited to a modern audience. It might have been a hit in 1957, but I don’t think it has much staying power. The storyline just doesn’t resonate with today’s viewers. I give the film 2 stars out of 5.