The past month I have been watching every Audrey Hepburn movie available on VHS... She has always been one of my favorite actresses, and 5 years ago I realized she was my all-time favorite: she has endeared herself to me in her most well-known films such as My fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Roman Holiday (all of which I love).
But I have also been viewing her lesser-known films, such as The Nun's Story (excellent), Children's Hour (excellent), and -- most recently -- "Two for the Road."
When I first rented the movie, I had =no= idea what to expect, so at first I was a bit surprised and let down that the relationship that Hepburn's character (Joanna Wallace) has with the leading male is not all sweet and sugary such as that in Roman Holiday. In fact, the relationship she has with Albert Finney's character (Mark Wallace) is "basically volatile" -- as Wallace's friend and ex-lover points out -- and is filled with "sniping" and mutual loathing--at least by the time they have been married for ten years.
However, by the time the film was over, I realized it was the most realistic movie about the vicissitudes of long-term relationships that I had ever watched and that I would be recommending this little-known film to all my friends, especially my married and divorced ones (i.e., I think one has to have been married and/or divorced to =really= appreciate the film, although other reviewers have pointed out that they were single when they first viewed it and that it made a lasting impression on them).
I myself was married 2 weeks shy of 14 years (in a very volatile relationship), and to me this film is "spot on" when it comes to portraying the different phases that many long-term relationships go through: the first months of almost absolute bliss; the early, pre-child years, when the arguments that occur only presage later, more serious ones; the years when a child only adds stress to a relationship already at a breaking point; the 6th-8th year when the couple can't stand each other; [the whole 7-year itch factor]; to the 10th-12th year when the couple still cannot stand each other, only pretend to be happily married, but stay together because "it is worth it sometimes," and because they discover they need each other. As Finney's character wryly remarks: If there is one thing I really despise is an "indispensible woman."
I give "Two for the Road" 4 out of 5 stars. The performance by Hepburn is extraordinary--given that she convincingly plays the same woman, Joanna Wallace, over a 12-year period, varying between a 20-something fresh youth who is "three-dimensional as it happens" -- Viewers of the film will recognize that quote -- to a thirty-something mother-with-child ("pregnant sow").
The film abounds with such wry remarks, excellent editing (making the film a bit tricky to follow, but which in turn adds to the pleasure of mulitple viewing).
Other reviewers have mentioned that the scenes cut between four different "road trips" that Mark and Joanna Wallace make, but in my count there are at least five:
(a) the one where they first meet and fall in love when hitchiking;
(b) the one where they are newlyweds travelling with friends of Mark (the American couple with a bratty daughter);
(c) the one where they are in the "old MG" (and eventually meet Maurice, Mark's soon-to-be all-consuming employer);
(d) the one where they are travelling together with their own daughter: on the road and in the hotel where the boiled egg doesn't arrive;
(e) the one where they are travelling without their daughter, en route to meet Maurice; the trip that starts and ends the movie;
Hepburn's acting was superb, while Finney's was passable at best. His character hardly changes in appearance over the 10-12 years, and his imitation of Humphrey Bogart is weak and therefore unnecessary. Michael Caine would have been a better lead. But he does deliver his lines well if somewhat too laconically.
Memorable quotes abound from this film, as in Breakfast at Tiffany's (which remains my fav of Hepburn films)...
----"We agreed before we got married we weren't going to have children," says Finney's character.
----"And before we were married, we didn't," slyly retorts Hepburns' character.
The dialogue is as catchy as the editing and the acting.
4 out 5: Even though I am a huge Audrey Hepburn fan, and even though the movie is one of her best... still it is probably not (yet) in my top fifty movies of all time...well, maybe #50. (There are an awful lot of movies out there!)
But I would still say that it is the most realistic film about relationships that I have seen, and certainly the most realistic film about relationships that Hepburn stars in. And "star in" she does in "Two for the Road": as in most her movies, her personality and--in this case-- her superb acting *make* the movie. She plays the gamut of absolute giddyness to the depths of grief in a very believeable and touching manner.
I plan to purchase the film for multiple viewings. And it is a definite "must see" and "must have" for Hepburn fans.