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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Somewhat inspired by a co-worker of mine, I thought it would be great to have a feature looking back at classic films (ones I have not seen) to see how they hold up today with a slightly modern viewpoint. It also allows me to catch up on some films I’ve never gotten around to seeing. First up: 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The movie centers on Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), a carefree, irresponsible young woman who treats life as a game and wants to marry into money to continue living her lavish lifestyle. Holly is largely a fake person. She wants to be the center of attention to various socialites in New York, but fails to realize that no one at her over-the-top parties care all that much about her. She is oblivious to her actual status among this group. At the same time, she completely uses those who she comes into contact with (as part of her desires to marry into money).
This is an interesting dichotomy on how clueless Holly actually is. Hepburn, in what is arguably one of her most iconic roles, plays of the Holly’s naivety perfectly. Frankly, I found her character completely obnoxious. I guess she kind of had to be. She lives in this fantasy world which she is oblivious to. This part of Hepburn’s performance I loved. What I didn’t like was Hepburn’s need to speak needlessly high pitched at a rapid fire pace. That really annoyed me to no end.
So, soon enough, we meet Paul (George Peppard), a would-be writer, who starts to form a friendship with Holly. Paul immediately sees through her façade and, the dope that he is, falls in love with her. And, after they spend their first, real romantic day together, she ditches him and resumes her quest to marry rich. Paul is shocked and disappointed by this. I guess for some reason he thought he would change her. Why would he think this? Or at least why would he not somewhat anticipate this outcome? In fairness, it does seem that Holly is a bit ashamed at her behavior, but she doesn’t dwell on it long.
Months pass. Paul gets on with his life, and Holly is set to marry a rich Brazilian. Fate brings the two of them together just before Holly is arrested for unknowingly being involved in a drug ring (yeah, that sounds strange in a summary, but it works in context). The Brazilian ditches her, and Paul finally calls her out on her shit (in addition to still being in love with her for reasons I just can’t understand – yeah, I know: “movie romance”).
In a moment of clarity, Holly realizes the life she wants is a sham and unobtainable (at least the way she is going about it). She reunites with Paul, and they, presumably, live happily ever after. Paul just loves it when a plan comes together.
So, what’s the verdict on Breakfast at Tiffany’s? The story is interesting, even if some parts are a bit slow or are handled clumsily (I don’t quite buy into the romance angle). I like Holly’s character – she is incredibly deep and complex, especially after I really thought about the film. Paul, on the other hand, is a bit white bread, but that is okay for what the movie needs him to do.
The direction, however, is kind of flat. I know! I know! Blake Edwards directed this and how dare I criticize him. I found it flat, mostly in the sense of how the scenes were blocked, the camera movement, and the overall cinematography. Especially with the in-door scenes. It seemed more like shooting a sitcom or stage play. I have not seen enough of Edwards’s work to determine if that is simply his style or if he was trying something different here. I suppose it isn’t a deal breaker, but I could not help but notice it.
Worth Seeing? Yes, I believe it is. While I might have had some issues with some of the story beats, the character of Holly Golightly is engaging enough to keep you invested throughout the movie. One warning: Breakfast at Tiffany’s is somewhat unintentionally offensive with Mickey Rooney playing a jaw-dropping Asian stereotype. He is a minor character, so he is never the focus, but it can throw you if you are unprepared for it.
This concludes the first Classic Cinema entry. Do you have any suggestions for classic films to be featured here? Please sound off below or on any of our social media sites!