Friday, August 28, 2009

#486: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Director: Blake Edwards
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard

Note: I felt it necessary to go through this film step by step, so if you don't want to know the ending, please be advised that this post contains spoilers.

Upon first glance, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a classic romantic comedy about a quirky woman who falls in love with her neighbor. Looking further, the film has some very deep messages that I'm sure anybody can relate to.

Holly Golightly is a self-described free spirit, living in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Her new neighbor, Paul, is moving in upstairs. In their first encounter, Holly is late for her weekly trip to Sing Sing to visit Sally Tomato, a man accused of being the boss of a mafia. Holly is paid to send messages to Sally's henchman through phony weather reports, though she doesn't seem to realize what she is doing. Holly has never settled down, claiming that the only place she feels at home is Tiffany's.

Paul is a writer, working on his first novel. It is also found out soon enough that he is also a kept man, though the extent of his use for his client is unknown.

Her free-spiritedness is always in question. Despite her claims, she is in fact a needy character. Though she has an emotional attachment to Paul, he can not provide her with a lavish lifestyle. Instead of Paul, she turns to the two millionaires in her social circle: the Brazilian José da Silva Pereira and the friendly and chubby Rusty Trawler. Even her attachment to Tiffany's is significant, hinting to us that her need for high culture overrules her so-called free-spirited nature.

Although she claims to be such a free spirit, Holly has trapped herself with all her quirks. She can easily be seen as a human version of her unnamed cat. She calls the cat a 'wild thing' which she has no authority over, and thus she denies the cat the right to a name. Holly not only is using a pseudonym, but her pseudonym even identifies her as catlike. Ms. Golightly treads carefully through both her boyfriends and her homes. She doesn't even keep a key for her home, claiming she'll just lose a new copy anyway, and would rather ring in her upstairs neighbor to gain entrance. Whenever she's caught in a bind, she lightly steps over it and moves on to her next adventure.

When she throws the cat out of her cab in the final scene, she is attempting to prove how free she is, only to run after Paul to find Cat again. In one of the most memorable images in cinematic history, Holly is just as discontent as Cat in the rain, even further showing her similarities to her feline friend.

Holly's character is thoroughly explored in this film, much more so than Paul. This is one effect of the transition from Capote's novella to film. Paul's character was originally the unnamed homosexual narrator, turned into a more conventional character for the big screen. Unfortunately, this has turned his character a bit bland, often being critiqued as a stiff.

I never forget to note the music of a film, and there is no way anybody could in this case. Mancini won two Oscars for his music for this film. Moon River is still a well-known, well-used song. On Mancini's IMDB page, Moon River comes up 65 times, having been used in both large-named films and TV shows. The song was written specifically for Audrey Hepburn, who defended keeping the song for the film when filmmakers debated its use.

There is only one portion of the film that everyone will agree the film would be better without. This is the racist and incredibly annoying Mr. Yunioshi, the neighbor upstairs who just won't stop complaining, played by Mickey Rooney. Even Rooney has stated that this character was his very least favorite part that he'd ever had.

Still, this movie is a complete joy to watch, and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • Audrey Hepburn said the scene where she throws Cat into the rainy street was the most distasteful thing she ever had to do on film.
  • Audrey Hepburn's salary for the film was $750,000, making her the second highest paid actress (behind Elizabeth Taylor) per film at the time.
  • Holly's couch is really an old-fashioned bathtub split in half. In some scenes, you can still see the gold handles at one end and the legs on the bottom.
  • Audrey Hepburn hated Danish pastries, making filming the famous opening scene a bit of a chore for her.
  • Although not visible on camera, hundreds of onlookers watched Audrey Hepburn's window-shopping scene at the start of the film. This made her nervous and she kept making mistakes. It wasn't until a crew member nearly got electrocuted behind the camera that she pulled herself together and finished the scene.

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