On this day in 1929, one of Hollywood’s most iconic actresses was born. In celebration of what would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 87th birthday, Diana from Flickin’ Out is hosting the May the 4th Be With Audrey Hepburn Blogathon, a clever play on the name for Star Wars Day (which is what many people on the internet will be celebrating today). Without hesitation, I knew which of Hepburn’s films I wanted to write about for the occasion, the 1967 film Two for the Road. After Roman Holiday and Charade, it’s my favorite of her films, and it’s surely one of her more underrated ones.
The film follows the roaming relationship of Joanna (Audrey Hepburn) and Mark Wallace (Albert Finney), who examine their troubled decade-long marriage while on a road trip to Southern France. Through flashbacks, they recall their hitchhiking courtship, early wedded life and parenthood, and the increasing tensions that lead both of them to infidelity, all set against their many road trips through France.
Two for the Road was considered a somewhat experimental film for its time, as the plot unfolds in a non-linear fashion and the flashbacks are presented as vignettes. The film begins with Joanna and Mark in the present time, and then continuously intertwines four other periods of their life together throughout. Scenes from the early stages of their relationship are juxtaposed with those from their latter stages, often leaving the audience to figure out what has happened between the two lovers, which is sometimes revealed in later episodes.
Though the way Two for the Road was presented reads as a bit confusing, it’s executed very well and isn’t hard to follow. Aside from some ingenious editing, the way Audrey Hepburn is styled throughout the five different periods is a helpful clue as to what point Joanna and Mark are at in their relationship, especially her five distinct hairstyles. Upon my recent revisit of the film, I found it interesting that in the two periods in which Joanna and Mark are predominantly traveling by themselves, Joanna’s style is much more casual and laid-back, while in the three other periods where they’re often interacting with other people, she’s more conscious of her attire. And in the present time, her fashion sense is quite extravagant.
Hepburn was director Stanley Donen’s first and only choice for the role of Joanna. When he first sent her the film’s treatment, she initially turned it down because of the film’s avant-garde style. But after sending her the whole script, she fell in love with it and fortunately agreed to play the part. It also helped that Hepburn and Donen already had a successful working relationship. The two had previously collaborated on Funny Face and Charade, which are a couple of Hepburn’s most beloved films. She’s had a couple of other successful director collaborations, such as the ones with William Wyler and Billy Wilder, but my favorite overall is her work with Donen.
Along with Donen, composer Henry Mancini was another crew member with whom Hepburn had worked previously. Mancini famously wrote the score for her most well-known film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, including the song “Moon River”. He also wrote the music for Charade and Hepburn’s other 1967 film Wait Until Dark. Mancini has said that although writing the film’s score was the most difficult in his career, the music he composed for Two for the Road was his favorite, and I must say it’s my favorite of his too. I listen to the film’s score very often and even listened to it while traveling through Europe last summer (probably the closest I’ll ever feel to being in an Audrey Hepburn movie). Aside from the film’s beautiful theme, one of my favorite tracks is one Mancini composed especially for the actress entitled “Something for Audrey.” Though it’s used very briefly in the film itself, I think the track perfectly captures Hepburn’s essence. You can listen to it (and the rest of the film’s soundtrack) on Spotify here.
It’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Hepburn’s co-star Albert Finney, as the film wouldn’t work so well without him. He’s certainly not the first actor I’d think of to cast in a movie opposite Hepburn, but he does an excellent job of balancing Mark’s sardonic attitude and easygoing charm, making it believable that Joanna would fall so easily in love with him. The actors themselves have wonderful chemistry, which was likely a result of the close bond they formed while filming Two for the Road. At the time of filming, Hepburn’s marriage to actor Mel Ferrer was falling apart, and Finney’s exuberant personality was beneficial to her current state. Donen recalled that Hepburn was more free and happy than he had ever seen her, and he credited it to Finney. According to Finney, the time he spent with Hepburn filming Two for the Road was one of the closest relationships he’d ever had, and has had only kind things to say about her: “I think Audrey’s a marvelous woman. Working with dear Audrey Hepburn is a memory I will never forget.”
One of the things I love most about Two for the Road is how much Audrey Hepburn gets to display her fun, goofier side. Hepburn is usually perceived as an elegant, refined type of woman but the roles she played often had a down-to-earth quality that was easily relatable, and here it’s no different. Joanna Wallace is also a much more flawed character than Hepburn’s other roles as we get to know her over a longer period of time. Hepburn is just terrific in this role, effortlessly handling both the film’s comedic and dramatic elements. She’s endearing as usual throughout, but there are moments where she really breaks your (and Mark’s) heart. Fortunately, Hepburn’s work in the film didn’t go unnoticed, as she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. She was actually a double Golden Globe nominee that year, having also been nominated for Best Actress in a Drama for her superb performance in Wait Until Dark. Come Oscar time though, only one of her performances could be recognized, and she was nominated for the latter film.
With a career full of iconic films and performances, Two for the Road is one of Audrey Hepburn’s most underrated gems. It’s a film that’s aged well since its release, and I really love it more and more with each viewing. If you ever get a chance to see the film, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a big fan of the actress like I am. As a fan, it’s also a treat to see how much Hepburn has grown as an actress since her Oscar-winning turn in Roman Holiday, playing a more mature character than we’re used to seeing while still infusing the qualities we love about her. To relate this a bit to Star Wars (and to dramatize her cultural impact), Hepburn really was a force to be reckoned with and still is today, being one of the few classic actresses powerful enough to transcend time and become instantly recognizable to the general public. So cheers to the lovely Audrey Hepburn, and may the force be with her today.
I wrote this as a part of the May the 4th Be With Audrey Hepburn Blogathon, where bloggers are remembering the actress in honor of her birthday. Click the banner below to read more posts celebrating the iconic star!