This week’s Hairpin Rom Com Club movie is Funny Face, starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. It’s an opportunity to talk about Hollywood Homely, huge age differences between romantic leads, and high-waisted pants:
“Though you’re no Mona Lisa…” he sings. No shit she’s no Mona Lisa, she’s Audrey fucking Hepburn. My point is that this is a classic example of Hollywood Homely, wherein we, the audience, are asked to perform the enormous suspension of disbelief required to entertain the notion that Audrey Hepburn is not incredibly beautiful.
Hollywood Homely is everywhere: every time Taylor Swift puts on a pair of mildly unflattering glasses, or Anne Hathaway frizzes out her hair and puts on Groucho Marx eyebrows, or Rachel Leigh Cook puts on a hideous wig, we’re expected not to notice that they still look like Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway, and Rachel Leigh Cook.
To be fair, the point of The Quality Woman is that she’s not merely physically attractive, but that she’s got poise, grace, intelligence, charisma. And Hepburn’s Jo has all those things—particularly noted when she’s frequently compared to the models in the film, who are depicted as very unintelligent. But in Funny Face, and in other movies where Hollywood Homely is deployed, we are all expected to recalibrate our understanding of what is beautiful and not beautiful. If we don’t make that recalibration, there’s no magic to the moment in which Jo is revealed in a designer gown, after hours with the Quality hair and makeup team; we’re supposed to realize for the first time that Audrey Hepburn is, in fact, beautiful. Is it a contract between story and audience? Or is it merely an insult to the audience’s intelligence? I’d argue it’s both: we agree to have our intelligence insulted so that we can watch a movie starring a beautiful person. All we have to do is pretend, for the first third of the movie, that we haven’t noticed how beautiful she is.
You can read the whole thing here.