Saturday, June 25, 2011
Movie Review: Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)
A cultural and stylistic landmark event, Breakfast At Tiffany's is a timeless classic, capturing an America just moving into a decade of enormous change, and doing it with panache.
Struggling author Paul Varjak (George Peppard) moves into another apartment in the same building. Women find him attractive, particularly Mrs. Failenson (Patricia Neal), a decorator who is willing to pay Paul for his calculated affection. Holly wants to keep Paul strictly as a friend, and does her best to try and deny the growing deep connection between them. Holly's former husband Doc (Buddy Ebsen) shows up in New York pleading with her to return to her origins in Texas, but Holly prefers a life of independent struggle in New York to retreating to the comfort of anonymity. Eventually, Holly reaches a critical decision point: her prospects look grim, unless she lowers the fence around her heart.
That Holly grapples with the big decisions in life so stylishly is a big part of Breakfast At Tiffany's appeal. The ridiculously oversized cigarette holder; the Givenchy dresses; the hats; the sunglasses; the jewellery: rarely has a single film had such an indelible impact on fashion, and Breakfast At Tiffany's is considered one of Hollywood's most elegantly stylish and trend-setting moments. Unintentionally, it probably also launched the modern era of wanting the luxury without being able to afford it. Holly never has any money, and she nevertheless looks gloriously fashionable wondering where the next dollar is going to come from.
Audrey Hepburn admitted that the role of Holly Golightly was difficult for her. She pulled it off magnificently, deliciously combining innocence with a hard edged determination to get her way and keep her heart cold. And Hepburn never looks less than ravishing in every frame, establishing her legendary reputation for timeless grace and beauty. George Peppard is adequate as Paul, never catching fire but holding his own opposite Hepburn's brilliant shimmer.
Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, Holly's upstairs neighbour, has been soundly criticized over the years for amplifying stereotypes about Chinese people, with a white man portraying a humourless Chinaman just making matters worse. Edwards' movies in the 1960s and 1970s never avoided walking the dangerous tightrope between funny and inappropriate racial-based humour, and if Breakfast At Tiffany's today falls on the wrong side of the divide, it is another reminder that the film is a most grand bridge that spans two very different eras of social enlightenment.
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