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With: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney, Jacqueline Bisset
Written by: Frederic Raphael
Directed by: Stanley Donen
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 111
Date: 04/27/1967

Two for the Road (1967)

4 Stars (out of 4)

'Road' Tripping

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though American director Stanley Donen is no slouch -- his long careerincludes Singin' in the Rain (1952), Funny Face (1957) and Charade(1963) -- Two for the Road (1967) is the movie he was born to make.

Written by Frederic Raphael (Darling) and lensed by cinematographer Christopher Challis (Tales of Hoffmann), Two for the Road tells the story of the rocky marriage between Joanna (Audrey Hepburn) and Mark Wallace (Albert Finney).

The film zips back and forth between several time frames, all during the couple's European vacations. Each beautifully shot Cinemascope scene makes some kind of visual jump into the next; it was the first film to use the now oft-copied shot of tree branches reflected in a car windshield. And yet, despite its visual trickery, it's one of the most emotionally honest films ever made in America.

Critics of the time complained that it relied too heavily on slapstick, including scenes of characters driving flaming cars, falling into swimming pools or losing passports, but Donen and Raphael masterfully layer bits of heartbreaking pathos on top of their jokes. And unlike many other movies of the period, the slapstick in Two for the Road has somehow aged well, perhaps because it always comes as a welcome break.

Hepburn sheds her "princess" image and devours her role, perhaps the meatiest she ever had. She plays well next to Finney with his soccer hooligan growl and his humorous bursts of fancy. The couple looks great traversing Europe, swimming in the ocean, hitchhiking, fighting mosquitoes, scrounging for food, fighting and making up. Even the film's striking last exchange of dialogue is a stunning combination of love mixed with spite.

Two for the Road earned its money back, but was sadly underappreciated. Hepburn was in another movie and a much bigger hit, Wait Until Dark, that earned her an Oscar nomination the same year. Rafael earned the film's lone nomination for his screenplay, and would go on to write a similarly effective film about a marriage in crisis, Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

DVD Details: Fox Home Video has now released the film on a long-overdue DVD ($14.98), with a gorgeous color widescreen transfer. Donen provides an interesting commentary track (recorded years ago for the laserdisc). Other extras include a photo gallery, a trailer and a restoration comparison.

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