NOV / DEC 2016: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, not far from New York, there was a very, very large mansion, almost a castle, where there lived a family by the name of Larrabee. The widowed mother, Maude, and her two sons, Linus and David, men so wealthy and influential and handsome as to be almost princes. And above the garage there lived a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild with his daughter, a young woman named Sabrina.
Linus Larrabee, the older brother, was a hard-headed businessman who never had time for enjoying life because he had the family business to run. Everyone knew Linus was dependable, steady, and serious. His younger brother David was the opposite. David never had time for the family business because he was too busy enjoying life. Though certainly eligible bachelors, neither Linus nor David were married. It’s unclear whether Linus frightened women, or women frightened Linus. Either way, he had never found time for a serious relationship. Neither had David — he flitted from one woman to the next like a handsome butterfly.
Sabrina Fairchild developed a crush on David Larrabee that turned into an obsession. Her father, recognizing her unhealthy fixation on playboy David, sent her to Paris. She left home a gawky, uncertain girl and returned a sophisticated, elegant woman. The sort of woman David Larrabee could not help but notice.
The story of Sabrina is, in effect, a Cinderella retelling. Overlooked, neglected servant girl gets a makeover and a new dress, catches the handsome prince’s eye, overcomes a few obstacles thrown in her way by one family member or the other, and lives happily ever after. But there’s a twist to this retelling. Because not only does it take a prince to see Sabrina’s worth despite her humble origins, but that prince needs a Sabrina to see the his worth despite the fact that everyone else sees him as stolid, unromantic, and dull.
Because it’s not David Larrabee that Sabrina falls in love with. It’s Linus. In this version of Cinderella, it’s not the girl who needs rescuing, it’s the prince. And not Prince Charming, but Prince Boring. Linus needs to be rescued from the rut of sameness his life has become, from never allowing himself time to feel or show emotions, from shoving aside life in favor of work. Prince Charming, it turns out, is shallow, easily distracted, almost childish in some ways. It’s Prince Boring who is capable of providing a happily-ever-after.
In fact, Linus Larrabee is as much a Cinderella figure as Sabrina. His overbearing mother took him for granted, relying on him to tend the family business while lavishing her softer emotions on David. In some ways, his secretary behaved in a more loving and motherly way toward Linus than his mother did. And no woman took the time to get to know Linus for himself and not his money or connections — no woman until Sabrina. He had remained in the shadows his entire adult life, convinced he was content to forge business relationships instead of personal ones.
But when Sabrina arrived and took David’s attention away from the woman he had recently proposed to, the woman Mrs. Larrabee and Linus wanted him to marry to cement a business deal, Linus had to step out of the shadows. He feigned interest in Sabrina, pretended to open up to her about himself, acted as if he was beginning to change.
Not surprisingly, Sabrina’s obsessive crush on David waned. She began to develop true feelings for Linus. Also not surprisingly, Linus intended to drop Sabrina and go back to his solitude once David’s marriage to the “right” woman was assured.
But something happened that no one expected, least of all Linus. He began returning Sabrina’s feelings. And while Sabrina had been the girl in the beautiful dress who fled a big party when the magic ended, Linus became the one fleeing a life of overlooked, neglected drudgery. When, in the end, Prince Boring finds Princess Obscure once more, he asks her to rescue him, rather than offering to rescue her. Stepping out of the shadows had been hard, but entering them again would be impossible.