A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie's high-fashion milieu, though satirized, does tend to be a consumerist plug for upscale women's clothing. Female characters are repeatedly objectified (all thin and gorgeous) and exhorted to dress and look their best. Being a pretty girl is equated with being rather stupid, and the heroine is chastised for trying to be more intellectual. Plus, there's a brief reference to "romantic" suicide in the context of the novel Anna Karenina.
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What's the story?
At a glossy NYC fashion magazine called Quality, domineering editor Maggie (Kay Thompson) seeks the next big sensation, an ultimate model to be dubbed the "Quality Woman." Maggie's especially disenchanted that all the pretty models being shot by her ace photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) are pretty dumb as well. In a Greenwich Village book store, Avery becomes transfixed with shopgirl Jo (Audrey Hepburn), a bespectacled "beatnik" intellectual, immersed in philosophy -- especially some new brand of thought called "Empathicalism." Dick talks Jo into modeling for him, making her offbeat appeal a success. For Jo's public debut as the "Quality Woman," they fly to Paris for fashion shoots (and on-location musical numbers derived from Gershwin tunes). In the process Jo and Dick fall in love, but Jo is an unreliable supermodel; she's mainly gone along for the opportunity to meet great French thinkers, especially the one who invented Empathicalism.
Is it any good?
FUNNY FACE is a bubbly, brilliantly colored but rather superficial old-school Hollywood musical. Compared with the same director's earlier masterpiece Singin' in the Rain it's a great-looking bonbon that leaves a sort of funny taste, if you ponder it too hard (which one shouldn't). The script takes satirical jabs at the fashion world's shallow superficiality, especially in the opening "Think Pink" song-and-dance number. But it also parodies the rebellion against 1950s consumer society embraced by the "beat generation," and their jazz tunes, coffeehouse concerts, and nonconformists.
So are the filmmakers in favor of anything? Yes, romance, and a very patriarchal one at that. Song-and-dance man Fred Astaire looks more like a dad than boyfriend to the magical Audrey Hepburn, and their romance feels like protective father-daughter stuff rather than real passion. None of these characters are given a history except Jo, a cloistered thinker meant to be an ugly-duckling (never mind the starlet's luminous looks). It's a little disconcerting the movie dismisses her deep thinking as a silly quirk, symbolized when Hepburn does weird, angular modern dance steps, in contrast to Astaire's graceful soft-shoe routines.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the attitudes. Would you call this film sexist? How has the fashion scene changed (or not changed?) since Funny Face was made? While the script's "empathicalism" is a made-up philosophy, you can talk about existentialism and Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, and other French star philosophers, right down to today's Bernard-Henri Levy (married to movie-actress bombshell) who commands much media attention.
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