On a European skiing holiday (why’s it always a skiing holiday?) interpreter Reggie Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) encounters a handsome stranger (Cary Grant) before her return to Paris. When she arrives, she discovers her husband is dead, apparently killed for a quarter of a million dollars she didn’t know he had.
The ingeniously written film achieves a better balance of comedy and tension than Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, managing to be consistently funny thanks to a script peppered with witty lines and excellent performances from its distinguished leads. But it never lets up on the story, with a whole pile of rugs beneath us which are pulled out one by one.
It also has understandable character motivations throughout, and explains its fairly complex story well so we’re not left pondering its less plausible moments. It’s only real problem is Reggie’s romance with the deceptive Peter, but this is as much to do with the gender dynamics typical of the time as questionable writing.
It’s stylishly directed by Stanley Donen from the psychedelic opening credits through the scenery of the Alps and Paris, and has a brilliantly quirky score by Henry Mancini with clear 60s influence adding an extra layer of charm. Charade is a finely tuned romantic comedy thriller which captures two Hollywood legends at their best.