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Sabrina (in defense of the remake)

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Image credit: Sabrina, 1995

Image credit: Sabrina, 1995

Confronted with the summer box office marquee recently, I had to take a pause and just shudder. It seemed like everything was a remake or a sequel. Or a remake. Or a sequel. Does nobody in Hollywood have an original idea anymore? Sure, I enjoyed Jurassic World as much as the next person, in an “oh my God this is so bad that it may be the best comedy I’ve seen in years” kind of way, but still I yearn for more films like Love & Mercy, or Tangerine . I know, I know, studios save all the good movies for the fall or Dec. 25th, but when it’s 105 outside and I want to sit in an air conditioned movie theater, I’d rather not have to suffer through yet another tired superhero flick. In thinking about all these reboots currently in the works, I started wondering if I have ever seen a remake of a film that I actually liked. The list is short, but at the top I would have to put Sydney Pollack’s 1995 version of Sabrina (DVD/Download). I’d even go as far as to say I like it better than the original Billy Wilder version. Before you shriek and clutch your pearls, let me explain.

The romantic plot of Sabrina is truly timeless. Sabrina, the daughter of a chauffeur to a wealthy family on Long Island, is the quintessential ugly duckling. She pines for the playboy son of her father’s employer, and stares longingly at a world where she’ll never belong. Eventually she grows up, moves to Paris, becomes stylish and sophisticated, then moves back home. The playboy son who barely knew her name takes notice, but she also catches the eye of his serious and surly older brother. Both films feature sparkling wit, lovely costumes (though my vote goes to the 1954 version in that regard), and a good dose of romance. Where the 1995 version wins out for me is in the casting. As much as I adore Audrey Hepburn, and admit that she is a better Sabrina than Julia Ormond, I think the ensemble as a whole is just better in the remake. Harrison Ford takes over for Humphrey Bogart (who at 55 was WAY too old to be romancing 25-year old Audrey Hepburn), and Greg Kinnear plays William Holden’s role. Ford and Kinnear are simply better suited to these characters than their original counterparts, and I genuinely get why Sabrina would have a tough choice to make. Charming, funny Greg Kinnear or serious, sexy Harrison Ford? Can I pretty please be Sabrina for just one day?

In both films, champagne is drunk freely at the lavish Larrabee family parties. So of course, for this sparkling, smart film , I’ll be drinking a champagne cocktail, with a french aperitif twist.  With whichever Sabrina you consider your favorite, I recommend trying a Le Sauveur.

Le Sauveur

.25 oz Absinthe

2.5 oz Cognac

.5 oz Cointreau

.5 oz Suze

.5 oz champagne

Lemon twist

Rinse a champagne flute with absinthe, fill with ice, and set aside.  Fill another glass with ice, add cognac, Cointreau, and Suze.  Stir until chilled.  Empty the champagne flute of ice and remaining absinthe, and strain cognac mixture into the glass.  Top with champagne, and a lemon twist.

Le Saveur

A lot of people may disagree with my opinions on the original Sabrina (and feel free to sound off in the comments below), but however loyal you are to the classic, you’ve got to admit that Sydney Pollack’s film stands on its own. It feels fresh, funny, and charming, and there’s not a superhero or CGI effect in sight- I give it bonus points just for that. Cheers!

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