While the 1995 remake of Sabrina wouldn’t make any favorites list for me, I enjoyed dwelling on her trope-y transformation during a recent rewatch. In a less gritty and dramatic retelling of the Audrey Hepburn classic, Julia Ormond appears as the titular Sabrina — daughter of the chauffer to a wealthy family. They live above the garage and we first see her happily wiping down the family’s Rolls Royce. They scene is lit by the glow of party lights nearby, as the lavish affair draws Sabrina’s wistful attention. She watches from the trees as her longtime, unrequited love David seduces yet another beautiful woman.
While you could say the movie revolves around her interest in David, her personal transformation is much more interesting. On the surface, you could mark it down as a typical movie makeover. And in some ways, it is.
We first see Sabrina wearing some sort of loose jumpsuit or overalls — whatever it is is beyond hideous. She has wire-rimmed glasses, bangs, and Hermoine hair. Her face is young and bare — pretty but held in mousy expressions (especially when she interacts with men).
If you jump to the end of the makeover, you see young woman in a trim black suit with an eye-catching broad-rimmed black hat, sunglasses, red lipstick and a curly pixie cut that likely inspired a lot of chop-and-perm mistakes.
But, the sequence in between is lengthy — around twenty minutes. In an effort to expand her horizons, Sabrina’s father secures her a job in Paris (turns out to be some sort of assitant role at Vogue that I can’t imagine needing to be persuaded to take). She pins up a GAP ad featuring David on her wall’s bulletin board and gazes around the unfussy fresh room.
She’s a mess at first — unable to speak French and thus, struggling with following basic instructions. Of course, a hot French photographer asks her out, lets her play with his camera, shows her all the cool culture of 90s France, and encourages her to explore the city.
This is where Sabrina’s voiceover narration starts to make sense — finally jumping to shots of her journaling in cute cafes, park benches and picturesque bridges. She finds herself over the sequence — which is about two years.
The wardrobe, makeup and hair is secondary to the inner transformation. While the big reveal is held back for the moment David sees her, I think it also gives the audience a change to really soak in the meaning of those two years.
After her return, she is compared to a breath of fresh air — which got me thinking about what that really feels like — being fresh air. I often feel that way in spring time.
March, April, and May feel like reinvention. I pack away all the sweaters and boots, think about chopping off all my hair and dust endlessly.
Something about opening the windows opens me.
And I can’t stop seeing yellow. Yellow comes first in spring — that yellow green of buds, dandelions, and buttercups. The world is made over and so am I from the inside.