By Carter B. Horsley
"Two for the Road" is a witty, sardonic
and slick look at marriage that is distinguished by great performances
by Albert Finney as Mark Wallace, a young architect, and Audrey
Hepburn, as Joanna, his wife.
Directed with great style and humor by Stanley
Donen, who is best known for "Singin' In The Rain" (see
The City Review
article), the movie constantly switches back and forth in
many flashbacks with many trick transitions that are cute but
also rather poignantly stream-of-consciousness.
As portrayed by Finney, the architect is a
great bluster of machismo but not without charm and ultimately
deep affection and love.
As portrayed by Hepburn, his wife is patient
but coy and full of humor.
We learn through one of the flashbacks that
the young architect originally had high hopes for making a trip
with one of Joanna's classmates, played with gleeful lust by Jacqueline
Bisset, but had to settle for Hepburn when the classmate came
down with chicken pox. The film was shot on location in Europe
and Hepburn's costumes ran the full gamut of 1960s styles. While
Hepburn has always been fashionable, she has never been more beautiful,
especially in scenes in which her hair is long. Not a classic
beauty, her smile has never been more radiant.
The performances of Finney and Hepburn may
well be the finest of their careers. Finney is tempestuous, goofy,
flirtacious, sullen, hurt, warm and happy. Hepburn is a shy gamin,
a coquette, a frolic, an adventuress, a recontrite lover, and
a loving and bemused wife.
The film skillfully negotiates the tightrope
between frothy romantic comedy and melodramatic marriage. This
is not the bitter pill of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
but the bittersweet maturing relationship between two very vibrant
and strong personalities.
Frederic Raphael was nominated for an Oscar
for his screenplay, which has much of the same sophistication
he brought to "Darling" for which he won an Oscar in
1966. The film's beautiful score is one of Henry Mancini's most
memorable and was nominated for best original score for a Golden
The film covers the couple's courtship and
12 years of marriage and is clever and perceptive in its presentation
of married life "ever after."
The only drawback in the film is the couple's
insufferable road trip with one of the architect's old flames,
played by Eleanor Bron, and her husband, played by William Daniels
and their obnoxious young daughter. Bron overacts and Daniels's
role is a caricature of political correctness/fastidiousness.
Bron and Daniels let their daughter run riot and at one point
Bron tells Hepburn that the daughter senses she does not like
her and that she should "woo her." When at long last,
Hepburn woos her the audience is most grateful. The roadtrip with
the couple probably seemed a good idea on paper but the couple
is so horrible and the sequence so long that it pains the audience.
Hepburn has a brief affair with a man Finney
has met and the scenes in which Finney comes upon the two of them
at a café and then when Hepburn returns to their hotel
room are particularly sensitive and fascinating. We often think
we know how we might react to certain situations, but reality
is filled with surprises.
This is a film of great affection that not
only delightful catches the exuberance of the mid-1960s but also
the pains of growing old and maintaining the flame of love. By
the end of the film, love remains precious, if not supreme.
On reflection, one might imagine William Powell
and Carole Lombard handling these lead roles very well, but Finney
and Hepburn are very perfect and epitomize here the special quality
of truly great stars.