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Wealthy and Unwise

Photo by Brian Hamill

Buy Low, Fire High: Harrison Ford plays a millionaire with a lover's conscience in the remake of "Sabrina."

The remaking of 'Sabrina' profits no one

By Richard von Busack

Once upon a time, Sabrina (Julia Ormond), the chauffeur's beautiful daughter, pined for David (Greg Kinnear), the handsome but worthless playboy son of the wealthy family her dad drives around. As the playboy faced marriage to someone else, Sabrina was distracted by David's older brother, Linus (a cowed Harrison Ford), rich in money but poor in spirit.

The remaking of Sabrina 41 years after the original presents a number of difficulties, of which trying to outdo the indelible Audrey Hepburn is but one. In this version, the playboy, rehabilitated in the last reel, is busy restructuring a company--i.e., "buying and firing." It's a wee bit hard to cheer his new purpose. People like David do quite a lot less harm drinking champagne and taking the bras off of debutantes than they do turning "a small fortune of $100 million into some serious money," as the narration tells us Linus has spent his life doing.

It may seem like the dreaded political correctness to complain about a millionaire in what's meant as charming fluff, but the filmmakers have compounded the insult by giving Linus a conscience. Melted by the girl, he donates a building for a halfway house for the homeless on Martha's Vineyard (this is meant seriously, by the way). The new version changes Sabrina, a mere natural aristocrat in the original, into an apprentice fashion photographer with more than a little money of her own. To give Ormond credit, she could have been a stand-in for Hepburn, and she has a smooth voice and a strangely wide-apart gaze, as if she's looking at everyone in the theater at once.

Still, Ormond's Sabrina is more stunned rabbit than stunning nymph, and she leads an indifferent cast, of which Ford is the best. The charmless Kinnear (of TV's Talk Soup) made me think of Bewitched's Dick Sargent. The frankly ugly lighting and photography lead to the inescapable conclusion that everyone concerned had lost faith in the fairy tale of the buried decency in the souls of the super-rich waiting to be explored by some working-class spelunker.

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From the Dec. 14-20, 1995 issue of Metro

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