Review In A Nutshell:
Charade is the story about a clueless woman being pursued by three men in order to get the $250 000 they helped steal from the Americans.
I remember watching this film a couple of years ago, as a friend recommended this film to me, saying that it was fantastic and thinking that I would share the same feeling. My first experience with the film was now vague in my memory, but I do recall feeling satisfied with what I just saw. Now, a couple of years later, I have decided to revisit the film again, possibly improving my feelings towards it. Sadly my feelings towards this actually worsened, but fortunately not by a lot.
Charade's plot was definitely easy to follow, as the film doesn't spend too much time in making itself complicated, instead it places emphasis on the twists and turns it would take like as if we were being played with. Throughout most of the film, we feel almost exactly what Regina Lampert feels as both the character and the audience starts off with no clue on what is going on and it is only the information that was given to her that helps us gain an understanding on the intentions of the players in this game. I personally didn't have any problem with following the formula throughout the film as it is an interesting way in watching a film unfolds. The film certainly has its twists, and they are abundant. Approximately every 10-15 minutes there is a major turn that completely changes our perspective of the situation and I honestly found this to be very tiring, as it makes it hard to appreciate the plot and suspense that the film has built at the start; instead of the audience putting their focus on the cash, instead their attentions are diverted to the twist and trying to unscramble the thoughts and preconception of the situation that were caused by this sudden change. I adore a film that could keep me on my feet, but when it contradicts itself way too much one can't help but feel exhausted in investing themselves with the characters.
I was truly disappointed with the characters in this film, as they felt quite hollow. It also felt like they were only tools in manipulating our emotions and to move the plot forward. It was very rare for me to care on what the character's feelings were. Our two lead characters were poorly developed at the start of the film, and they stayed that way until probably half way through the film when we have developed some sort of connection with the characters after all they have went through, therefore having something to kind latch ourselves onto. It would have been nice to gain some sort of history on the characters, even if it was executed through small pieces of dialogue during conversations. I personally feel when one doesn't have any characters to hold onto during a film, then the film's plot and narrative starts to be seen in an objective point of view and through this, cracks starts to appear and ultimately bring the film down.
I personally felt that Charade was a parody of Hitchcock films, as I can see the small references that are scattered throughout the film; whether or not they are direct I cannot say. Just little nuggets like exploring the idea of spy/agents, the mislead of our idea of an important character, the witty comedic banter between the characters, individuals placed in a situation that they accidentally stumbled themselves onto, and the execution of the action set pieces particularly the rooftop scene, which clearly was a call to Hitchcock's Vertigo. These references were definitely a delight to watch and made the film more fun than the storytelling was trying to strive for. But throwbacks are not enough to carry the film throughout if the characters and plot lacked any sense of connection with the audience.
The film's tone was also a bit unbalanced for me as it seems to switch and forth between dramatic thriller and romantic comedy in a way that felt so polarising that going from scene to scene made me feel disoriented. Characters at one point during the film would feel a sense of danger, truly feeling threatened but the next scene would then switch to this North By Northwest kind of mindset where the characters are coming off as sarcastic almost to the point of not caring whether or not they would die. If the director had picked one tone to primarily carry this film and have others be buried only in specific moments throughout, then this would have been a much easier film to watch.
The film's photography was satisfying, with scenes creating that heightened sense of emotion that felt both stylish and subtle. I did enjoy the film's use of shadows, particularly during scenes of danger and threat as it just overcast on the characters in such a way that clearly throws back to the thrillers that has influenced the director, while at the same time ensuring scenes were executed that left audience in feeling both intrigued and threatened. The photography did at times go along with the dual tones of the director with some moments not matching with the scenes the preceded it, but is successful in amplifying the emotions of the scene that we are currently watching. I personally felt that this film would have benefited with a little more breathing room, as the film seems to be primarily confined within the apartments, leaving me feeling tired of seeing it, as actors have completely exhausted their use of the environment within the first hour of the film. It was delightful to see the location of Regina's occupation during the end of the second act, treating us to seeing something new while also building character development. The boat scenes at night that occurs half way through the film was gorgeous, and was something that stuck in my mind ever since my first viewing of this film. The film's score, composed by Henry Mancini, came onto me mostly in a positive light, as there were a couple of moments in the film that felt both original and a throwback to particular mystery/suspense films that influenced this film. The sound of the guitar and percussion instruments that came on during the title track was beautiful. The trumpets and violins that play throughout particular scenes were memorable and effective. This is not to say it's perfect as some moments felt a tad melodramatic, and some moments the score has incorporated the music as sound effects which made it at times cringe-worthy, particularly during a moment in the rooftop sequence.
The film's acting was truly disappointing. Cary Grant plays a man that is a toned down version of what he played on North By Northwest, and I thought it was definitely better than the performance that he brought to the Hitchcock film but it was still sometimes irritating to watch as he was still too cool for his own good, but at least here he has a reason to be. Audrey Hepburn was also disappointing in this film, as she was forced and melodramatic, as the scenes weren't all that shocking or that intense to begin with. I have seen her in much better roles like in Breakfast At Tiffany's and Sabrina, where almost each moment is a scene-stealer. The three "antagonists" of the film were over exaggerated and at times made me yawn when they rambled on.
Charade is a film that left me split, sadly this wasn't the outcome that I wanted after seeing this, as it definitely has elements that worked or things that had the potential to be great but sadly failed in its execution. I guess only time will tell whether or not this would improve on me in the future.