When it comes to fashion and style, nothing does it for me like 1960s mod. The clean lines, bright colors and geometric shapes of the era have always provided inspiration for me both as a designer and with regards to my personal style. So, it was only fitting that I give some love to the film that most wholly encompasses the stylish sophistication and carefree fabulousity of the pre-war ’60s. Say what you will about the adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the ultimate exercise in style over substance. No offense to Mr. Capote — who ironically wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part — but nobody remembers Breakfast at Tiffany’s because of the story. The responsibility lies solely on the milky, thin shoulders of Audrey Hepburn, radiating dazzling, megawatt charm and charisma in her Givenchy-designed wardrobe, whose work catapulted Holly Golightly to the ranks of the most iconic characters in American cinema. Audrey took a pair of Ray-Bans and a cigarette holder and turned them into ubiquitous symbols of glamor and elegance. Even though Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released at the height of Ms. Hepburn’s popularity, Holly Golightly inarguably became the most memorable screen persona of the actress’s career.
Set in a sparkling New York City around the turn of the decade, Hepburn’s Holly Golightly is a carefree, not entirely mentally stable young woman always in search of the next wealthy sucker to finance her lavish lifestyle — using and tossing aside men with all the carelessness of a soiled tissue. Perpetually on the run, first from a troubled childhood that had her married off to an older man at the age of 14, Holly came to New York by way of Hollywood after ditching a burgeoning film career to live the blithe, empty lifestyle of a socialite. Holly lives by a philosophy that ensures she never gets too tied down by anything, to the extent that she refuses to even settle into her apartment or name her pet cat, with the rationale, “If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s … I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!” When writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard) moves into the apartment above Holly’s, the two immediately strike up a friendship and form a bond based on the fact that Paul reminds Holly of her brother, Fred, in addition to the similarity of their situations. Because, oh yeah — Paul isn’t so much writing these days; rather, he’s financed by a wealthy, married woman for uh, “personal reasons.” So naturally, the two fall in love, which is kind of creepy considering the fact that Holly calls Paul by her brother’s name, which no one ever really questions actually. Oh well. However, of course the couple can’t actually be together, since both of them rely on the paid companionship of others to get by in life. Such a conundrum!
Ever the stand-up guy, Paul sends his sex-boss packing and starts writing again, presumably because of the inspiration of his muse. But writing, while satisfying, is unfortunately not the most lucrative career (just ask the Pajiba staff). Likewise, Holly is mostly unimpressed by the $50 check Paul receives from selling his first story, so she goes running off to the arms of yet another wealthy, uninteresting admirer not long after Paul makes his intentions known. Sounds like a real peach, huh guys? Romantic comedy contrivances play out dutifully, as Holly is eventually forced to come to terms with what’s really important in life. While some view Breakfast at Tiffany’s as a romantic love story, I personally have always felt that the overt selfishness and insincerity of Hepburn’s character keeps me from getting too emotionally invested in it. Although, let’s face it, you’d have to be made of stone not to melt a little bit to Holly crooning “Moon River” while sitting on the windowsill.
Rounding out the cast is Buddy Ebsen as Doc Golightly, Holly’s estranged husband from the rural south; Patricia Neal as the wealthy sex-boss; Martin Balsam as Holly’s Hollywood agent who, perhaps justifiably, calls her out as a phony; and of course Mickey Rooney as the delightfully racist “Mr. Yunioshi,” Holly’s buck-toothed Japanese neighbor. Mr. Yunioshi — whose sleep, meditation and bath time are disrupted by the young socialite at all hours of the day and night — is the type of blatantly offensive, politically incorrect character that can only be found in films prior to 1975. But you know, because it’s a classic, we can all point and laugh, right? Well, producer Richard Shepherd is said to be ashamed of the character and has stated it’s the only thing he would change about the film.
I’ve gotta say, as I much as I appreciate and enjoy Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it still amazes me how the film achieved the juggernaut pop culture status that it did, to the point that almost 50 years later you can walk into an IKEA and walk out with a piece of manufactured “art” in Hepburn’s likeness. It’s an amazing testament to the radiance Audrey Hepburn emits onscreen — not to mention the magic and glitter of mid-century New York City: That a fluff film revolving around two opportunistic and essentially kind of unlikable people has forever cemented itself as one of the most iconic American films of all time.
Stacey Nosek is a television columnist for Pajiba, and tries her darnedest to be fabulous like Audrey Hepburn while living in the scenic woodlands of rural Pennsyltucky. You can also find her ripping on celebrities at Webster’s Is My Bitch."Guess It's Pretty Lucky Neither of Us Is Rich, Huh?"
Film | January 21, 2008 | Comments ()