To any first-time readers of my blog, welcome! I am on a noble quest to watch all of Greg Kinnear’s movies in a year. You can check out my inspiration for this project here and my first film review of Brigsby Bear is here. But, I must confess to all my readers that Sabrina should have been the first Greg Kinnear movie I reviewed. It was GK’s first starring movie role and it’s available on Hulu. Meaning, we all could have watched Sabrina on our own electronic devices and discovered the magic of Greg Kinnear together from the very beginning. But wait, we still can!
In Kinnear’s very first movie line ever, he says, “It’s so rare to meet such a beautiful woman…with your sense of humor and irony…poetry…and hair color.” Gentlemen, take note of this amazing pickup line! When stumbling for words to compliment a girl, simply insert “poetry” and complement the rarity of her hair color.
In Kinnear’s second movie scene, he sports this outfit:
Gentlemen, take note! This outfit is ideal for all kinds of sportsing. The short shorts let you comfortably make swift movements, while the overcoat keeps you warm and stylish.
In Kinnear’s fourth movie scene, he describes marriage thusly, “That thing where you hang together a lot, and sleep in the same room, and button each other’s hard-to-reach buttons.” Kinnear’s marriage proposal is obviously accepted and (everyone take note!) this may be the moment we knew Kinnear would one day be Oscar material.
In Kinnear’s penultimate Sabrina scene, he pops Harrison Ford with a left hook. Everybody take note, Kinnear is a southpaw! (Kinnear’s left-handedness is confirmed by an earlier scene, where he’s playing billiards and holds a cue stick as a lefty would).
See? If I started the project with Sabrina, we would all be Kinnear fanatics by the end of the movie. We’d all be…wait for it…”Swooning Over Sabrina’s Southpaw.” And I haven’t even talked about the movie’s premise or Kinnear’s character.
Directed by Sydney Pollack, Sabrina is a re-make of the 1954 romantic comedy. Here’s the trailer. The movie follows Sabrina Fairchild (Julia Ormond), who is the young (college-age?) daughter of the Larrabee family’s chauffeur. The Larrabee family consists of matriarch, Maude (Nancy Marchand), and her two sons–Linus (Harrison Ford) and David (Greggie Greg!). Linus is the responsible, workaholic son who runs the family business and has no time for girls. David is the playboy who lives off the family wealth and spends his time dating women. As Sabrina so aptly puts it, “Maude was on the cover of Fortune… Linus was on the cover of Time…David did a GAP ad.” This was 1995 after all, so GAP was hip.
Growing up on the Larrabee estate, Sabrina had a major crush on David. But she is a plain girl who goes unnoticed. Concerned about her obsession with David, Sabrina’s father (John Wood) sends her to Paris for some time (months? years? the movie isn’t clear). Meanwhile, David gets engaged but has second thoughts when he thinks about commitment. Linus pressures him to pursue the marriage, mainly because Linus seeks a business partnership with David’s future father-in-law. And then comes the Cinderella-like twist…Sabrina returns as an independent woman with a new look. Voila!
David falls for her, and both his future in-laws and family worry. To avert business and personal crises, Linus intervenes and pulls David away from Sabrina both literally (at a family party) and figuratively (by making his own move for Sabrina). After David sits on champagne glasses (you read that right, it’s a serious injury!), he spends much of the movie’s second half bed-ridden on pain meds. Clearly we weren’t worried about an opioid crisis in the 90s. This allows Linus to court Sabrina, and she starts falling for him.
I am definitely not the best person to review a rom com, and I won’t tell you who Sabrina chooses. But, overall, I enjoyed Sabrina. Julia Ormond is great as Sabrina, especially in the scene when she returns from Paris and toys with David who is lovestruck by her but fails to recognize her. The father-daughter relationship between Sabrina and her dad is the most heart-warming part of the movie. Harrison Ford is also great as Linus, particularly in the scenes where he demonstrates the indestructibility of a flat-screen TV.
In some corners of the internet, people can’t understand how Sabrina could ever not choose Linus. It’s Harrison Ford, darn it. He sports this epic bow tie + glasses combo:
But let’s be real, Harrison Ford is already showing gray and Sabrina is supposedly in her 20s. Why wouldn’t she go for the younger, more charismatic David? Not to mention that Greg Kinnear is pretty great as David.
Greg Kinnear as David Larrabee
First off, it’s pretty amazing that Greg Kinnear landed this role and we need to talk about it. Kinnear was a talk show host, hosting Talk Soup on E! from 1991-1995 before moving to NBC for Later with Greg Kinnear. Talk Soup did win a 1995 Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Programming, so Kinnear had skillz. But not necessarily acting chops.
In looking for his David Larrabee, Sydney Pollack had watched old tapes of Talk Soup and considered casting Kinnear for months. He finally called Greg for an audition, and the two bonded over their hometowns. Pollack is from Lafayette and was surprised to meet an aspiring actor from an even smaller town in Indiana–Logansport. Kinnear was dumbfounded that he got the role, and his comments at the time are great. “There were moments when I was looking at Harrison Ford and thinking he was just going to look at me and say, Seriously, what the hell are you doing? Come on, hit the road and get on the next train out of here,” he says in one interview. Or, “Here’s a woman [Julia Ormond] who’s worked with Sean Connery and Richard Gere…Can you imagine the horror in her eyes when she heard she got paired up with me?”
In addition to being a deer-in-headlights, Kinnear’s first role is as a playboy who goes through women like they’re socks. (Don’t worry, that phrase was also not politically acceptable in the 90s). On paper, this is not a likable character, but Greg (and the writers, I’m sure) had other ideas. He decided to make David redeemable by transforming him from a loathsome person to someone who’s just confused.
This guiding light defines David’s character. In scene-after-wonderful-scene, he is a dorky, confused, out-of-his depth playboy. In his “marriage proposal scene,” he jokes about his omelet-making skills and then plugs marriage as “that thing where you hang together a lot.” Somehow this works, to his own confusion. His fiancee probably accepted because she felt bad for missing their date and Greg is wearing a tux. On Sabrina’s return from Paris, David accidentally gives her a ride home while utterly confused as to who she is and how she knows him. The way Kinnear asks “Well, you know me. Don’t you?” is wonderful, and his facial expressions throughout this whole scene are incredible:
The arc of Kinnear as confused David reaches its pinnacle when he forgets he has champagne glasses in his back pockets (he literally put them there like 5 minutes prior) and sits on them. This puts him on medicated bed-rest where he delivers perhaps his best line of the movie. When Sabrina comes to visit him, he greets her with “Did the dry cleaners have your car?” And then he tries to cuddle with her hand. It’s wonderful.
This confusion arc totally works. Us viewers are charmed by David’s redemptive qualities and can see why Sabrina has fallen for him. By the end of the movie, David decides what he wants and his arc reaches a fitting conclusion. In his final “boardroom scenes,” Kinnear flexes his newfound acting muscles by injecting a newfound confidence into David Larrabee–making big decisions that will positively effect his brother, Sabrina, and many others. I won’t say I preferred Kinnear to Harrison Ford…but, yeah, I will say it. Harrison Ford’s Linus was the classic “businessman who learns to find time for love” character and maybe that’s your thing. But I’m on the Kinnear train.
- Kinnear shines in his first starring movie role. He defines David Larrabee by confusion and dorkiness, making the playboy character more lovable. Oh, and GK was 31 at the time.
- Kinnear gets some really solid lines, and absolutely crushes the delivery of them. Once again, “Did the dry cleaners have your car?”
- Kinnear punches Ford with his left, and plays billiards like a lefty. Fun fact alert! Kinnear is left-handed. Sabrina swoons over a southpaw!
- Reviewers were pleasantly surprised by Kinnear’s performance. One headline read, “Sabrina puts Greg Kinnear on Hollywood’s Buzz List.” Word to 1995: he’s still there!
- GK movie ranking: Sabrina > Brigsby Bear. GK had a bigger role in Sabrina, and it’s an impressive debut. (As I review more GK movies, I would like to come up with a graphic for this ranking. I’d love ideas from my readers!)
- This is a unique time to be reviewing Kinnear’s movies. In his first movie (Sabrina), he starred alongside Harrison Ford while in his most recent movie (Brigsby Bear) his co-star is Mark Hamill. The list is short of actors who have worked with both Star Wars stars. If only Kinnear was in a movie with the late, great Carrie Fisher.
- Next up, we’ll take another look at Kinnear’s southpaw-side as the left-half-part of Siamese Twins in Stuck on You. The movie is available to stream on HBO or to rent from Amazon.
- Next-next up: My mother-in-law visits in a few weeks, and I am very excited to watch a GK movie with her! Right now, I’m considering Flash of Genius or You’ve Got Mail.
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