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"The film has SUCH a good heart, and such a powerful effect, particularly on women of a certain generation"  -Cate Blanchett on Paradise Road
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On a motoring holiday in the sunny South of France, a successful architect Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) and his wife of 12 years, Joanna (Audrey Hepburn), reflect on the ups and downs of their turbulent union. Through bouts of tears, happiness and cheers, they bicker and they quarrel and talk of divorce. Both have fleeting affairs, but only one is honest about it. Somehow the marriage endures. Whether it be through loneliness, persistence or sheer masochism, they seem to have a desperate need for each other...and maybe love is part of it.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
This bittersweet and brutal comedy with bite has something for everyone who is, was, wants to be, or never will be married. When they first meet, Mark Wallace is a self-assured young architect who is back-packing over Europe, studying the world's finest buildings and Joanna is travelling to a music festival with an all-girl choir. The most willing and vivacious chorister is Jackie (Jacqueline Bisset), who is the apple of Mark's roving eye until, like the rest of the troupe, she is suddenly stricken with a bout of chicken-pox. Mark and Joanna find themselves thrust together when they continue their travels but Mark, in particular, hasn't much enthusiasm for the other.

After 12 years of long-wedded bickering, they are now wounded spouses winging their way across the English Channel on their third trip to Europe as a subdued, somewhat petulant Joanna reflects on happier times and "where did it all go wrong?" Their petty squabbles, jealousies, romantic and carefree interludes are flashed backwards and forwards under Donen's stylish but somewhat patchy direction. The film is overlong and you feel the strain when Donen labours a running gag to do with Mark's "disappearing" passport and there's a whirlwind stopover at a roadside ruin in which the action is speeded-up to slapstick pace, which should have been dumped.

Things turn excruciatingly funny, however, when the Wallaces are marooned in the same station wagon with prim pipe-smoking efficiency expert, Howard Manchester (William Daniels), his doting wife Cathy (Eleanor Bron) and their monstrous daughter Ruthie (Gabrielle Middleton). The uneasy peace between the four adults in this torturous car pool is doomed from the moment Howard fusses over the tiniest detail of their trip, spraying fly-spray at every innocent buzz to "did you remember to pack the anti-snake serum?" Five-year-old Ruthie, of course, is no help when she pipes up with the most appalling questions: "Daddy, why do you think Joanna is a bitch?" All must share the driving duties (exactly 100 kilometres at a time; no more, no less) and Howie even has a formula for dealing with expenses. "We'll call Ruthie a half," he chirps, "in which event we can most efficaciously divide everything into nine parts and split them into a ratio of five to four." As for Ruthie-belle she is perhaps the most insufferable little squealer ever seen on the screen ("I'm hungry! I want to eat something now!"), and Joanna's response to the brat's behaviour ("I still want a child...I just don't want that child") will bring a "hallelujah" from all who pity her.

The orderly ways of the finicky Winchesters are in vivid contrast with the erratic Wallaces. Theirs is a marriage that is founded on impulse and sustained under stress; an imperfect union between two people poles apart that at least is never, ever, dull. Sometimes, when the hapless couple are hammering away at each other, Two For The Road is almost unbearably shrill...as only Audrey Hepburn can be shrill, but the film reflects some of her best and most sophisticated work. Garbed in a garish showcase of the finest fashion of the 'sixties, Hepburn matures almost seamlessly from naive coquette, to worldly wife, mother and matron. Finney, never one for easy charm, is less successful since it's impossible to warm to a character quite so arrogant, hypocritical and cruel. After each has fluttered from a refreshing fling, a contrite Joanna kisses an indifferent Mark whose viperous response is "you're sure you can remember which one I am?" The dialogue from Frederic Raphael's Oscar-nominated screenplay is often as harsh as that but it is also peppered with oodles of wit and charm.

Filmed at gorgeous locations in Paris and the French Riviera, the rocky road of marriage is smoothed by the sweet and melancholy moods of Henry Mancini's theme music. But let me rephrase....Two For The Road "has something for everyone" except anyone who might feel that wedlock in dead-lock is too close to home.

November 18, 2004

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CAST: Albert Finney, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Bisset

DIRECTOR: Stanley Donen

SCRIPT: Frederic Raphael

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 2.30:1


DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 17, 2004

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