Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Frances Fisher, Keir Dullea, Gabriel Macht, Peter Giles, Emmy Rossum, Eric McCormack | Director: Steven Robman | Producers: Kay Hoffman, Robert Greenwald, Kimberly Rubin, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Steven Robman | Screenwriter: Marsha Norman | Released By: Columbia Tristar
Following the life of one of the most dazzling and complex young actresses of past generations, this made-for-television event transcribes Audrey’s life beginning with the tragic parting of her parents at a young age, to the fulfillment of her career in the filming of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The story opens the first day of filming, and Audrey recalls to mind, in-between takes, her past. Her father, a secret messenger for the Nazis, was unfaithful to his wife both in mind and politics, and left them for London when she was merely a child.
Her mother struggles to raise Audrey properly, and eventually turns her care over to a boarding school in England. Desperate to be reunited with her father, Audrey searches London for him… and in the meantime takes up ballet. Swiftly it becomes a passion, but when her learning reaches a peak, Germany declares war on England. Assured that their safety will be better guarded in Holland, Mrs. Hepburn pulls her daughter from school. Unfortunately, the Netherlands fall to the Nazis soon thereafter and Audrey becomes a volunteer messenger for the opposition. With the closing of the war comes Audrey’s severe illness, but finally, hope.
Although behind in her ballet, she pursues her talent, taking up side jobs as a dancer. “Look at those eyes,” one man whispers to another as she auditions. “You could see them from the back row! No one will even notice my choreography.” But once again, her hopes are dashed when the Mademoiselle informs her that she has neither the youth nor talent to become a prima ballerina. Audrey is forced to find another profession, and in the meantime becomes acquainted by a dashing young millionaire. But will she be forced to leave him behind?
Jennifer Love Hewitt, for staunch fans of Audrey herself, may be a bit hard to swallow. I found myself doubting her at first, but as the story progresses, she grows more into the role. She may not look exactly like the glittering star, but she plays it well, regardless of all the protests. She’s pretty enough to convince you of Audrey’s beauty, and carries around her that “little girl lost” sense. The film, for what it’s worth, is well acted all around, although a few eyes will roll at the substitutes for major actors such as Humphrey Bogart. The costuming is gorgeous, but the film doesn’t quite escape the “television” feel, even in video form. The commercial cuts are rather obvious.
True fans of Audrey will know her past and can pick holes in the story told here… there have been some changes made for the sake of dramatic license, but I felt myself growing to love the characters. Sniffing for Audrey when she faces the painful realization that her father doesn’t want her, the thrill when she at last has the baby she longed for. For family viewing, there’s not a great deal to be wary of in the film itself. The suggestion is more apparent than the obvious.
Sex is talked about a few times, in reference to whether her character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s slept with all her boyfriends, or just some of them. A few direct lines from her films are somewhat risqué. (“I’ve never been alone with a man with all my clothes on before… and with all my clothes off, it’s even more interesting.”)
It’s up in the air whether Audrey and her wealthy fiancée share the same bed or merely the same house in a trip to the country. She also spurns one lover, not because he’s married and would get a divorce for her, but because he can’t have children and that’s what she really wants.
It’s an altogether touching and heartbreaking story for the older class of viewers. Children shouldn’t see it merely due to the Nazi elements and the fact that she does flirt with a married man (her co-star in “Sabrina”). But the characters are all worthwhile and invigorating, from her protective mother to Audrey herself, when she finally comes around to realizing that she is the role model of thousands of young women worldwide. It’s a tad too long, but the feel-goodness of the ending makes up for it, when Audrey finally gets what she wants… a smile and compliment from her director.
Editor’s Note: Some have wondered whether Audrey Hepburn was a saved soul. Her aristocratic mother’s family lived in the Netherlands and like most Dutch of the time were officially Calvinist Christians, although we do not know whether they were true believers. Her mother (Ella van Heemstra) was a devout Christian Scientist—a heretical belief system developed by Mary Baker Eddy. Audrey’s father (Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston) was officially a Protestant, but we find no proof that he was a true believer. He was a very troubled man—an adulterer, a Fascist, and a Nazi sympathizer—even in his old age, he apparently remained detached emotionally from Audrey, who supported him financially.
Audrey certainly did some good works on behalf of others, and she did say she had “faith” and believed in “miracles,” but the same could be said of those in Christian Science and various other belief systems. As far as we can tell, she was not religious; in fact, she seems to have stayed apart from all organized religion. She publicly said her faith was not “attached to any one, in particular, religion…. My mother was one thing, my father another. In Holland, they were all Calvinists. That has no importance at all to me.”
If she was a true believer, we found no evidence that she revealed it publicly. Only God knows her heart. Like all humans, she was a sinner in need of a savior. We can only hope that in her later days she did fully acknowledged that need and accepted Jesus Christ’s payment for her sins, turning her life over to Him, as the one and only way to God. Her Earthly life ended on January 20, 1993, due to appendiceal cancer.
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