‘Two for the Road’ stars Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as Mark and Joanna Wallace, a married couple in crisis. When we first meet them they are barely speaking. When they sit on the plane they make sure there is an empty seat between them and Mark resolutely ignores his wife while Joanna quietly smoulders but, for some reason, seems to endure it. After they land, they drive across France to St. Tropez where Mark – an architect – is due to meet a busybody client for whom he has just designed a house. It is during the course of the drive, via a series of flashbacks, that Mark and Joanna’s relationship is laid out in front of us – from unlikely first meeting to initial romance, to a bizarre road trip with Mark’s neurotic ex-girlfriend (Eleanor Bron) the ex-girlfriend’s anal husband and their insufferably bratty child, to having a child of their own and the unhappiness and infidelities that follow. It’s a long journey and, in my opinion, not an especially successful one.

Up until now, I didn’t think it would be possible to describe any film Audrey Hepburn was in as ‘charmless’. I’d never heard of ‘Two for the Road’ and when Eureka! announced this special dual format (blu-ray + DVD) release my hopes for the film were high – how could a comedy / romance starring Hepburn and Finney, with the additional support of wonderful Eleanor Bron, ever fail?

Most critics say it didn’t. ‘Two for the Road’ was nominated for a flurry of trophies in 1967/68 and is #57 on the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Passions list. It won screenwriter Frederic Raphael two Writers Guild of Great Britain awards and director Stanley Donen won the Golden Seashell at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. Interestingly though, besides a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination for Ms. Hepburn (she didn’t win), none of the cast were nominated for anything.

To be honest I’m not surprised, because Raphael’s script doesn’t give the actors much to work with. How Mark and Joanna ever got together in the first place is a mystery. There’s one of the worst meet-cutes I’ve ever seen, when Mark loses his passport on the ferry and Joanna finds it (this becomes a recurring un-funny ‘gag’ throughout the film) followed by a sequence where Mark hooks up with Joanna and her bunch of girlfriends but has obviously only got eyes for gorgeous young Jacqueline Bisset who promptly comes down with chicken pox leaving Mark and Joanna to continue the trip together. Mark is an arrogant oaf who’s more interested in his 3D camera than getting to know Joanna, but Joanna still falls for him regardless. In fact, that’s a problem the film never overcomes: why would Audrey Hepburn, beautiful, playful and smart, ever give this floppy haired un-charming and sense-of-humour-impaired misogynist the time of day? There is nothing to explain the attraction. Sure, Albert Finney was one of Britain’s good-looking ‘angry young men’ when ‘Two for the Road’ was made but Robert Redford he was not and, quite frankly, I couldn’t see any reason why Joanna would put up with any of his crap which made me very annoyed at her character as well.

And don’t even get me started on the road trip with Eleanor Bron and company. In 1967 Eleanor Bron had already established herself as an excitingly diverse actress with a terrific flair for comedy but in ‘Two for the Road’ she’s just a whiny butterfly-on-a-pin, fluttering away in the front seat of the car while Frederic Raphael’s awful dialogue slowly skewers her to death.

As for Donen, according to the supplemental materials on this disc he was very keen to work with Raphael and loved the script as soon as he was presented with the first draft, but apart from having lots of pretty locations to point his camera at, I don’t understand the appeal. He had directed Audrey Hepburn much more successfully four year earlier in the brilliant little spy-thriller / romantic comedy ‘Charade’ so he obviously knew how to bring the best out of the actress, and she absolutely gives her best to this thankless role, but Raphael writes Joanna as an occasionally feisty martyr grateful for Finney’s attentions and Hepburn deserved better. Where Mark’s camera takes photos in three-dimensions, Raphael writes women in one dimension. Thirty years later he would write ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ for Stanley Kubrick, proving his ability to write for women didn’t get any better. I am absolutely bemused as to why he has ever been considered one of Britain’s greatest screenwriters.

We won’t even talk about the ‘flashbacks’, when Hepburn and Finney are supposed to be a decade-or-so younger but, apart from a few changing hairstyles and horrible designer clothing (the Paco Rabannne black PVC trouser suit Hepburn wears really seals her doom), look exactly the same as when we first meet them. At times it is actually quite confusing.

But what about the disc? Well, Eureka! Master of Cinema’s presentation is far more impressive than the film. For a movie that’s almost fifty years old, the picture is fantastic, the colours bright, the scenery pops out of the screen and Henry Mancini’s score sounds terrific. The interview with Raphael and feature length commentary with Stanley Donen are welcome additions and the 36-page booklet packed with illustrations and writing on the film is interesting as well. Technically and supplementals-wise, this is another great Eureka! MoC offering. I just wish I hadn’t disliked the film so much…

Now I’m going to put on ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’ to make myself feel better…

Blu-ray Review: Two For The Road
The score reflects the disc, not the film itself!
3.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white