It is easy to feel sorry for Charade. Whilst no doubt a classic, it was released at the wrong time and is constantly overlooked in favour of the more mainstream favourites of Alfred Hitchcock. It does get some love, but at this stage people mostly love it for Audrey Hepburn and not for how fantastic the core of the film actually is.
The comparisons to Hitchcock are easy to spot. The film follows Reggie (Hepburn), as she returns from holiday she discovers that her husband has been murdered trying to flee Paris. The CIA explains to Reggie that she is in danger and will have a crew of thieves on her tail looking for the $250,000 her husband stole from them. Reggie is joined by the charming stranger Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), they work together to find the money and evade the thieves.
Whilst the cast are usually the most celebrated aspect of the film, for me the best thing is how effortlessly Charade switches between genres. With combinations of comedy, thriller and romance, the film remains constantly entertaining because of these genre jumps. The comedy flows fast, with Hepburn’s natural comedic ability shining through. The thrills are intense; it builds slowly towards the finale which will have you on the edge of your seat. The romance is believable and genuine; it will warm even the coldest heart.
The rotating door of genres works because of Stanley Donen’s strong script and simplistic direction. He obviously learned a lot from Hitchcock, by keeping the amount of scenes and characters low, he was able to mine out all the comedy, romance and tension he desired.
This may be sacrileges to say, but when compared to Hitchcock’s romantic-thrillers this is a better film. Donen had the benefit of hindsight when he made Charade; by observing what Hitchcock did he was able to create a film that nailed all the right aspects. Hitchcock’s romantic-thrillers were never my favourites of his work because they all lack something, the extra genres usually feel forced instead of flowing effortlessly like they do with Charade.
Onto something we can all agree on… Hepburn and Grant are always on the receiving end of praise for their work and Charade is no different. For me this is their definitive work, my favourite performance from each actor. Their chemistry is incredible, from the very first scenes they make the screen sizzle. Despite their huge age difference, they naturally work and it is a real shame that Charade is the only film they made together.
Charade is a classic. Donen is committed to entertaining audience, whilst the cast are committed to charming our pants off. This will forever be a favourite of mine and a film I’ll happily watch a hundred times.
4.5 out of 5.0