Don’t ask me how, but for some inexplicable reason I had mixed this movie with Working Girl. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a remake of Sabrina, so when the déjà vu hit, it was pretty strange first two minutes of the movie before I realized what was going on. In hindsight, I feel even more stupid because it’s so obvious from the plot synopsis alone. With that out of the way, let’s begin: Julia Ormond does not upstage nor outshine Audrey Hepburn, but she certainly does manage to do her own, contemporary take on it and create a clear difference between her take and Audrey’s. As for Harrison Ford, well, he is certainly no alcoholic Humbrey Bogart, but in this instance it’s a good thing. Ford’s Linus is a bit more lovable and, well, easier to swallow as a romantic end game for Sabrina. I adore the original film to death, but dear lord, Bogie was so wrinkled and worn out looking in the film thanks to his long lasting commitment of alcohol consumption that what was already a big and a bit conspicuous age difference between him and Audrey was made even more jarring whenever Bogie and Audrey shared the screen together. Funnily enough I never had that problem with Lauren Bacall and Bogart, but I digress.
To its credit, the 1995 version really does manage to make certain aspects of the story work better than in the original. For example the remake delves considerably deeper into the characters and thus helps to turn the story more intimate and romantic affair. I’m not sure if we really had to see so much of what Sabrina’s life in Paris was like, but it did help to establish her character more firmly and really highlight the considerable transformation she goes through before returning home. The ugly duckling look they disguise Ormond with in the early part of the movie is so very, very cliché, but I suppose it goes with the territory and you just have to bear with it. Admittedly the contrast between old and new Sabrina works considerably well within the story itself, because it makes it easy to see why David doesn’t recognize Sabrina when they meet for the first time after she left, which, if I recall correctly, is another thing the original didn’t really do as well: Audrey was still Audrey even when she was meant to be a very plain looking chauffeur’s daughter, and when she returns from Paris, she just had a more glamorous wardrobe rather than blossoming into a beautiful flower.
As an interesting tidbit (and side note before capping this off), Paul Giamatti actually does one of his earliest screen roles in this movie, as one of the staff members in the Larrabee home. The role is very insignificant however, he gets perhaps two, three lines in the entire movie, and it wouldn’t even be worth mentioning if I wasn’t such a giant fan of Giamatti. But anyway. As far as remakes go, the movie falls largely in the plus column. It not only manages to stand on its own movie, but it also successfully updates the setting and does things just slightly different enough to properly justify its own existence as a remake. Not to mention it avoids the typical trappings of being an uninspired carbon copy of the original. I still prefer the original, largely thanks to the magnificent cast, but that is entirely due to personal bias clouding my judgement.