Title: Two for the Road
Language: English, French
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Director: Stanley Donen
Writer: Frederic Raphael
Music: Henry Mancini
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
TWO FOR THE ROAD is an authentic road movie, with opening credits of miscellaneous traffic signs bode the marital turbulence of a couple, the architect Mark Wallace (Finney) and his wife Joanna (Hepburn), who has been married for twelve years, and through the haphazard narrative jump-cuts, as the title suggests, the film presents them in a continuously mobile fashion, mostly in flashbacks, whether they are hitchhiking, carpooling with another married couple (including a fast-forwarding sight-seeing in Chantilly), or later they can afford to travel on their own, their trips in the magnificent European land evokes an evident whiff of lyricism intermingled with their personal romances and crises.
Directed by the legendary Stanley Donen, and enabled by Frederic Raphael’s wickedly astringent script, with golden maxim like “Marriage is when a woman asks a man to take off his pajamas because she wants to send it to the laundry.” or “I still want a child, I just don’t want that child.”; and more strikingly, Donen discards the traditional linear account, instead he disarrays the over-one-decade timespan with sharp editing to hop erratically onto their various en route encounters and happenings, the film essays a full spectrum appraisal of what could happen during a relationship, from the budding romance, the unrestrained passion, the blithe squabbling alters into the bitter snide, the fatigue of bringing up a child, the extramarital affairs and finally spilling the beans of their dissatisfactions with blatant betrayal. Donen does go out on a limb to test the patience of its audience in this connubial fable.
While the narrative can be problematic to grasp at times, for first-time viewers sometimes can barely be aware of which period our two protagonists are in the story, the movie’s composition is as frequently changed as Ms. Hepburn’s wardrobe, all too dashing and hasty to comprehend. The weightier challenge now falls on the shoulders of the two leads, which thankfully turns out to be truly amazing, despite of their seven-year age difference (in a rare case the woman is older), the Hepburn-Finney (aka. the bitch vs. the bastard) pair generates a waft of tangy chemistry on screen. There are good times when they are young and free, succumb to involuntary infatuation which can be viscerally affecting; in the bad times, they quarrel, diss each other. Hepburn contrives to give off a presence of corporeal concreteness instead of her more goddess-like persona, she is tormented by her ingrained insecurity and although we can tell youth is slowly eluding from her countenance, she holds on well throughout the varying phases due to her immaculate flair and unblemished self-respect projected in Joanna. Finney’s Mark is flippant, volatile, flirty, even verges on male chauvinism, reeks of gentleman-like snobbishness, but his inner child never grow up during all these years.
A young and gorgeous Jacqueline Bisset has a five-minute role in it, (auspiciously heralds her reunion with Finney in John Huston’s UNDER THE VOLCANO 1984), but the most joyous one in its merger supporting cast is William Daniels’ Howard, the husband of Mark’s ex-lover, he is a rigorous efficiency expert, surely the best expedition companion one can ever find if fairness is all you care.
TWO FOR THE ROAD makes good use of the irrevocable fluidity of road-trip as a metaphor of one’s tumultuous marriage journey, and it also shows audience a different Audrey Hepburn under the same dignified decorum, another good reason that the film should not be obliterated from a younger age group.