September 8, 2011

A Rainy Day Charade

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It’s been raining a lot lately — perhaps the least controversial lead to ever grace the Sun’s pages. But in this column I don’t aim for controversy. Instead, I look for catharsis, which, after a rainy week we are all a little in need of.

On Labor Day, which I appropriately spent working all day in the library, I came across at least three or four friends who said some variation of, “I’m having the worst day ever.” I could sympathize. Indeed, sitting in a corner carrel in Uris library, the rain beating against the glass, the broken blinds shaking from the breeze of the over zealous air-conditioner, I too was convinced that I was having the worst day ever. The. Worst. Day. Ever.

The weather can do that. It can alter our mood, and cast a shadow (no pun intended) over everything. And in Ithaca, where the weather is usually less than ideal, I’m sure that I’m bound to have many other “worst days ever” before the semester is out.

Faced with a bad day — the kind of day that is doomed from the start, the kind of day where going outside necessarily brings a string of aggravations and bad luck — there is only one foolproof solution. And that is staying inside.

And to truly salvage such a day, you must stay inside and (and this is key) watch a movie. Not surprising advice from a movie column, but it is my true advice nonetheless. Because just as weather can change a mood, so too can film. It is this transformative quality that makes it such an important medium.

Of course, the choice of movie is essential. It is also highly personal. My go-to movies, the ones that always take my mind off of the dreary weather, might not be same as yours. In fact, they probably aren’t. Despite this, however, I thought I would use today’s column to share my proverbial recipe for the perfect stay-in in movie, and recommend one of my favorites.

To me, the ideal stay-in movie is a completely enthralling one. It can’t be too short or too long. It must be exciting, with strong characters and a clear, engaging narrative. A happy, even kitschy,ending is imperative. And finally, it needs to be visually appealing: stylish, and sophisticated enough to save it from being overly simplistic (a trap that movies with sweet endings often do).

One film that possesses all of these qualities in my mind is 1963’s Charade. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant, Charade is often mistaken for a Hitchcock film. The mistake is an understandable one. Though directed by Stanley Donen, the movie shares many traits with Hitchcock classics. It is an exciting thriller full of plot twists, and has a paranoia-inducing style full of dramatic music and dark, shadowy scenes.

The movie tells the story of Regina Lampert (Hepburn), who returns from vacation to her apartment in Paris to find out that her husband has just been murdered. It is an overwhelming situation for any woman to find herself in, and yet, Regina’s life becomes even more complicated as she learns the considerable mess her husband left behind. As a man at the U.S. Embassy informs her, during World War II her husband was involved in a robbery. And upon his death, Regina is pursued by a string of men, including Carey Grant, who are all trying to recover what he stole. The only problem is that Regina doesn’t know where the money is. She also doesn’t know which man she can trust …

In fact, the only instinct Regina feels sure following is that of her heart. Despite the uncertainty of Grant’s character, Regina is drawn to him, and a relationship between the two develops.

And so, underneath the thriller we find a romantic, almost screwball comedy. As  the plot develops, and the repartee between Hepburn and Grant gets more heated (in a wink, wink sort of way that only films from that era can truly pull off), it’s hard to know what to focus on: the love story or the thriller. Especially when the romance focuses on film greats Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn — who looks particularly stunning here.

Luckily though, in the end, you do not have to choose. As the original trailer for the film itself says Charade is equal parts, “suspense, comedy and romance.” The perfect blend for the perfect afternoon in.

Original Author: Hannah Stamler