“I’m sorry I thought you were the murderer. But how was I to know he was as big a liar as you are?”
Describing a Hitchcockian mystery-thriller as “fun” may seem ridiculous, but that’s the first word that comes to mind for Charade. Directed by Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, Funny Face) and starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, this movie is equal parts comedy, mystery, and romance. Many of the lines and situations are genuinely funny, even silly, but it’s still a very competent mystery with plenty of twists and danger around every corner. As you can imagine, trying to build a romance through all of that also proves challenging for the characters, but that’s enjoyable too. Overall, this is a highly entertaining movie that’s a joy to watch.
The plot follows Reggie Lampert, a young woman living in Paris who is falling out of love with her husband. When her husband is murdered, she quickly discovers there were a lot of things about him that she didn’t know—such as his connection to three mysterious and dangerous men who show up at his funeral. She finds out that her husband and the three men stole a quarter of a million dollars from the US government, and then he stole it from the other three men, and now everyone wants the money. The problem is, Reggie doesn’t know where it is either. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse where nobody knows who’s the cat and who’s the mouse, and the movie will keep you guessing right up until the end.
Mr. Bartholomew, if you’re trying to frighten me… you’re doing a first-rate job!
Though the plot twists and mystery are top-notch, the movie is a lot of fun, and that’s what sets it apart. The humor is irreverent and even dark at times—rare for the 60s. In fact, the subtle dark nature of the film was a bit too much for some reviewers when the film first came out and garnered some negative reviews, even though the film is upbeat by today’s standards. The romance is very sweet and works very well as a subplot, second to the mystery but still engaging enough to hold a viewer’s interest.
Charade was made purely for entertainment—there is no underlying message or insight into human nature. It doesn’t have the emotional depth of other classics like Casablanca or Roman Holiday. But as entertainment goes, it’s great. The characters and dialogue are extremely witty, and they seem to be having fun on screen just as viewers will in their seats.
I watched this movie with my fifteen-year-old son and we both loved it. Charade has a wide appeal and most viewers will find something to love. The only bad thing I can say about it would be the aforementioned lack of deep emotional depth, but Charade doesn’t attempt to be that kind of movie. It’s a fun movie that is a joy to watch either alone or with friends. This is one I’d recommend to anyone.
Director: Stanley Donen
Genres: comedy, mystery, romance