Saturday, April 12, 2008

Paris when it fizzles

TCM is showing a movie with an interesting idea, tomorrow, April 13, at noon: Paris -- When It Sizzles. Although the premise is inventive, unfortunately, the execution falls a bit short.

William Holden stars as Richard Benson, an American screenwriter living in Paris working on the latest movie of producer Alexander Meyerheim (played by Noël Coward). Meyerheim knows that Benson is quite the drinker (not much of an acting stretch for Holden), so he sends a secretary, Gabrielle Simpson, played by the lovely Audrey Hepburn, to check up on his screenwriter. Naturally, she gets to his apartment hotel and finds that he hasn't written a single page. So, together, they come up with a plot -- and it is this plot that is portrayed on the screen for us, with Holden and Hepburn playing the two characters who are part of the plot.

The movie should be quite fun, but throughout, there just seems something not quite right. Holden and Hepburn were delightful as two-thirds of the love triangle in Sabrina several years earlier, but they don't have nearly as much chemistry here. It's just not easy enough to care about them in the professional capacities of a screenwriter and a secreatry, or the possible love that may bloom between them.

It's also difficult to care for what happens to the characters they play in the movie-within-a-movie. The plot is convoluted, as it should be: they have only one weekend to come up with an entire screenplay, and that naturally leads to coming up with whatever one can off the cuff, which is bound to be as much of a mess as anything Norma Desmond needed Holden's Joe Gillis to doctor in Sunset Blvd. The Parisian locales, while lovely as always, aren't enough to make the plot any more compelling.

In short, Paris -- When it Sizzles! is a movie where everything is capably done, but the whole turns out to be less than the sum of its parts. That's a shame, since the main cast members (I haven't yet mentioned Tony Curtis as Gabrielle's boyfriend who also shows up in the movie-within-a-movie) are normally quite enjoyable, and the idea and locations ought to make for a joy to behold. But, as always, you should probably judge for yourself.

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