How to Steal a Million Reviews
Pillow Talk, Rock Hudson/Doris Day cutesy rom-com, in fact it seems to be throwing the genre's cliches back in it's face.
Tonally it's more like To Catch a Thief, and there's even an homage to Hitchcock just before Simon is revealed; a suspense scene of him breaking into the house while Nicole reads a book about the Master of Suspense. A startling noise, she throws the book over her face, Hitchcock's picture on the jacket covering her. Makes for a good laugh. O'Toole's Simon then makes a graceful entrance as the cool and collected art thief, mysteriously taking a sample of excess paint. Already we suspect he might have his own analysis process to determine if what he steals is authentic. We sense Simon is playing with Nicole after she catches him, and the budding tension between them is a delight. She ends up shooting him in the arm, which he oversells to gain her sympathy. Ultimately, the only thing he really wants is her, but there will be a few obstacles and misleads along the way to make it seem otherwise.
It takes awhile for the plot device to come into effect - Papa's fake Cellini Venus is the talk of the town on display at the local museum, and he plans to get a million dollars for it. Only it has to pass examination for insurance coverage, which he signed away without realizing. His whole life's earnings thrive on the fakes he's sold, and if he is caught, he will end up losing everything. Wyler does a good job framing various rooms in the house lavishly in wide-shots juxtaposing the subjects who inhabit these spaces. Everything is antique, even the gun Nicole shoots Simon with, primly decorated, displaying works of art, large halls, marble floors, winding staircases. We get a visual sense of what's at stake for them. The burglar Nicole was so anxious to keep away is now a source of business interest: steal back the Venus before examination, and hide it.
The Venus robbery is full of tedium and clever devices. Most tedious is Simon's magnet play to retrieve the key, which turns out to be such a badass move that it symbolically magnetized Nicole into his arms. Earlier it's established that Simon has a good relationship with the boomerang, as it now comes into effect when he sets the alarm off, then runs to hide, creating the impression that it's malfunctioning. After the alarm sets off enough times, the guards grow irksome, deciding to shut it off, paving the way for the theft. Simon, having previously played a faux inspector, noted a staircase exit through the guard's room, which now comes back into play as Nicole, impersonating a coy cleaner while actually containing the Venus in her mop bucket, scrubs her way out of this hidden exit.
I was enjoying but troubled by the immorality of the idea that these forgers should be the protagonists who we cheer to have a successful theft and escape from fraudulence. But the twist in Simon's character makes up for everything, and his true intention reveals what one might've suspected but forgot from the get-go when he took that little clump of paint for analysis. He's not letting any crime get away, and the frauds will lose their prized trophy. But in the end, he gets the girl, and his love for her is the only reason her father doesn't go to jail. That's a pretty sweet twist.
The script is great because it has a lot of crazy complexity to everyone's story, and yet it still manages to maintain clear goals and agendas for all the characters. There's a lot of comedy in the setup as we learn all the history of these people, and their art. The laughs distract from the fact that it takes a long time to get the climax going. It did seem like the movie was in danger of dragging on too long, but it never got so bad I would say I was "bored."
The 3rd act is when the title of the film comes into play and it transitions into one of my favorite types of movies. I adore a good heist, and this is back in the days before silly electronic gadgets and complex computer systems, so it took some extra cunning. It was so much fun to slowly realize what was happening and to discover their plan. It's made even better by the fact that they have 2 amazing lead actors to carry the story.
How to Steal a Million is a fun little romp. It has laughs, romance, and adventure. I commend the script because it is so smart. I miss movies like this that could make you laugh with nothing more than clever wordplay. Also, they gave the film a wholly original setup that was both ridiculous and yet logical. Add in a fabulous cast and you have a movie that I greatly enjoyed, and would like to watch again sometime.
Hepburn plays the daughter of an art forger who comes up the brilliant idea of stealing the very piece of art forged by her father, worth 1 million dollars, which is sitting in a 'highly' guarded museum. Of course, her reason for stealing the sculpture is so that her father isn't caught, but you're better off suspending disbelief for this plot point and every other one in this crime-comedy.
Hepburn and O'Toole have magnetic chemistry and share several laugh out loud moments in the heist. I think the problem is that it just takes a little bit too long to get going. With that and it's over the top nature, I can see why people wouldn't be keen on considering it one of Hepburn's best, it's not. With that said, it's hard not to become invested in O'Toole and Hepburn's budding romance throughout and the film's undeniably funny moments. The tone is very much in the same vein as the Wyler classic, Roman Holiday, also starring Hepburn. Once you get past the ridiculousness of the plot, I think you can enjoy the picture.
The film never reaches the heights of similar films like, To Catch a Thief, but I'm not sure it was intended to. Although, Hepburn can be seen holding an Alfred Hitchcock magazine at one point, possibly paying tribute to the crime classic which was released 10 years prior. At the very least, it got me thinking about how great a Hepburn-Hitchcock collaboration could have been. Overall, 'How to Steal a Million' deals with a simple plot and ridiculously over-the-top museum guards amongst other things, but it's a fun time. And that's all I can really ask from a 60's comedy.
+Hepburn & O'Toole's chemistry
-Slow start and a little too long
Movies from this period just have an appeal that modern movies don't. Especially when it comes to the genre of romantic comedies. This was when that genre was still respectable. How to Steal a Million has all the appeal of old Hollywood. It's a heist/ romantic comedy film with one of the best and most stunning leading ladies of all time, Audrey Hepburn. Peter O'Toole and Hugh Griffith also star in a movie made by one of the greats, William Wyler.
There's nothing about How to Steal a Million, that makes it anything more than it was; a fun heist comedy. Set in the elegance of art loving, high society Paris, Audrey Hepburn stars as Nicole, daughter of rich art forger, Charles Bonnet. Charles makes a lot of money forging great works of art and selling them to eager art collectors. Nicole only wants him to stop. One night she catches a burglar(Peter O'Toole trying to steal one of her fathers forgeries, so instead of calling the police, she takes him back to his hotel room. When a museum that Charles Bonnet has loaned a prized sculpture, also a forgery to, has to do a technical test on it for insurance purposes; Nicole hires the burglar, Simon to steal it from the museum. Easier said then done, when the museum has the best security equipment money could buy back then.
What this movie lacks in a believable love story, it more than makes up, with the beautiful sets, fun humor, and the great acting of the strong leading cast. A movie with Audrey Hepburn is always going to be worth the watch, throw in Peter O'Toole and William Wyler behind the camera and now you've really got something. It's too bad that Hollywood went away from this type of elegant, witty style. Now the romantic comedy genre is dead and buried, which is a good excuse to go revisit the classics, like How to Steal a Million.