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It’s a little more than surprising that there aren’t more comprehensive or innovative documentaries on the lives of some of Hollywood’s most beloved icons. Audrey, now available on Netflix, is here to fix it. Helena Coan’s film seeks to shed light on a side we haven’t yet seen of screen, stage, and style star Audrey Hepburn with the help of those close to her. Is the documentary worthy of the icon? Or do you prefer to stick to its Wikipedia page?


The essential: Audrey Hepburn. An icon for the ages. Perhaps one of the last real stars of Hollywood’s golden age. She made waves on screen and on stage and as a style icon, but she was much more than that – and that’s what the Helena Coan movie Audrey seeks to illustrate. The film quickly takes us on a journey through Audrey’s origins in Europe and doesn’t shy away from the truth about her sympathetic fascist and Nazi parents. We learn that her father left the family when she was very young, and it was later speculated that this abandonment – and the insecurity and fear it caused – played a big part in her romantic relationships for the rest of his life. After her release in the Netherlands, she arrived in post-war London hoping to fulfill her dream of becoming a ballerina. Sadly, the war had caused her to miss pivotal years of training and technical development, so she quickly turned to small roles in films and on stage to pay the bills. It wasn’t long before the stars aligned and she made her stage debut in Gigi, and soon after broke like a real star in roman holidays, which won her the Oscar for Best Actress.

The film continues by following the proven formula of combining archival footage and interviews with film clips. Audrey recounts the big and small moments of his career as well as his personal life with the help of his son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, his granddaughter Emma Kathleen Hepburn Ferrer, friends, film critics, historians, actors like Richard Dreyfuss and other icons like Peter Bogdanovich. Through their words and hers, Audrey is painted as much more than the face covered in sunglasses that adorns so many walls across the world.

What movies will this remind you of? : Audrey Looks like almost every other documentary about old Hollywood icons, whether it’s made for TV or bigger budget. If you’ve dug things like Bomb: the story of Hedy Lamarr, Make Montgomery Clift, etc, Audrey will probably be the ticket for you.

Memorable dialogue: Audrey herself has said a lot of beautiful and deep things that are included in this documentary, but I was most moved by these words from her granddaughter Emma Ferrer, who was incredibly choked: “My dad said about my grandma Audrey’s best kept secret is that she was sad… It makes me really sad to think about… You know I really think she just wanted to love and be loved, and… I thought she had it in her life, but I think she hasn’t had it from a lot of people. For the most beloved woman in the world, having such a lack of love is so sad. “

Gender and skin: Nothing.

Our opinion : When it comes to documentaries on famous or iconic subjects, it’s pretty easy to predict how the film will play out, beat for beat. This is certainly the case with Audrey, to the weird dramatic ballet interludes that really do nothing to enhance the effectiveness of the film (rarely any of these attempts to illustrate the emotional state of the subject actually work in this genre of film, with the exception of the animations by Daniel Tiger in Won’t you be my neighbor?). Despite this predictability, however, I was completely charmed by Audrey, a film that really loves its subject matter and seems to really care about showing the world the woman she was, rather than just the dazzling icon of cinema. It is this worship that makes the film work; even in its most stereotypical moments, the story of Audrey is unmistakably human and important. It’s not just about her rise to fame and the impact of her art, but also the demons she fought her entire life and what she truly felt called to do as that no one.

That the more personal revelations exposed in Audrey are discussed by people like Hepburn’s son Sean Hepburn Ferrer and granddaughter Emma Kathleen Hepburn Ferrer, a young artist, only make them more touching. One moment in particular – the one I referred to above in which Emma tears herself apart talking about the deep sadness Audrey has lived with – is enough to get you looking for your own box of tissues. There’s something about how carefully Audrey’s public image and brand was built when she introduced the world to such a carefree and cheerful character, and Audrey helps us really understand why. Her own broken childhood and even the rejection of her father as an adult weighed heavily on her, and it’s likely that all of these things caused her to turn her back on the film industry for a (very important) decade in favor of being a current parent – and why she spent most of her later years working with UNICEF rather than making more films.

There are so many good little nuggets Audrey presents us, like her amazing historical friendship with Hubert de Givenchy (just about every iconic look she has ever donned can be attributed to her), how she was the one person King Johnny Carson was intimidated by, how she was terrified of dancing with Fred Astaire. It’s not that this is all new information or that Audrey delves into everything that makes it a particularly important job, but it’s an enjoyable and engaging viewing, especially for fans of movie history and Hollywood. By the end of the movie, it actually feels like they could’ve gone deeper – even enough material for a miniseries, in fact, that could further light up every shadowy corner of this infinitely fascinating woman. Its charm and allure are alive and well, and Audrey is a testimony to this. I only wish the movie took us a little deeper and allowed us to peek behind the curtain a little longer.

Our call: Stream it. While he doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, Audrey affectionately pays homage to a woman rarely seen outside of her on-screen roles and shines a light on the human behind the icon.

Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines and harboring crushes for celebrities of daddy’s age. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.

To concern Audrey on Netflix


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