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My Fair Lady

#311 - My Fair Lady
George Cukor, 1964

In turn-of-the-century England, a wealthy linguistics specialist decides to take an uncouth lower-class woman and teach her how to look, sound, and act like a proper lady.

In my experience, musicals are always a bit of a gamble, but I have a high enough tolerance for them that I almost never think of them as truly bad pieces of work. Unfortunately for them, that also means I have trouble thinking of them as genuinely enjoyable pieces of work beyond their obviously painstaking production values. My Fair Lady is another film that falls into the latter category as something I can only appreciate at a distance. Its roots in George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion guarantee a pretty serviceable plot around which to build a bunch of different musical numbers, but it's not like most of them are particularly memorable in and of themselves. They are carried by the dual lead performances of Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison as the titular lady and her cultured educator respectively. A variety of other characters populate the film to provide foils and conflicts, but it really is all about those two. Though Hepburn naturally makes quite an impression through both her rough Cockney accent and her eventual posh affectation, it is Harrison that comes across as the film's best performer as a character that does not evoke much sympathy from an audience but still makes for a fascinating character as his intentions to use Hepburn in order to prove a point are complicated by his genuine development of affection for her.

Otherwise, the production values are strong as the film creates a solid and striking depiction of Edwardian England against which the songs and characters can play out. Though most of the songs and characters don't leave much of an impression, it doesn't make much of a difference considering how Harrison and Hepburn carry the bulk of the film. It has an impressive if none-too-creative visual aesthetic that makes its lengthy running time pass by a little easier. As one of the musicals that became acclaimed enough to win Best Picture at the Oscars, it will either prove exceptionally appealing or exceptionally grating or exceptionally average, and I guess it's probably a good thing that my opinion of this ends up being somewhere between average and good.