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I've loved "Breakfast at Tiffany's" since I was nine. Even before I
completely understood about Holly's "profession", I was captivated by the
grace and magic that was Audrey Hepburn.
George Peppard plays Paul Varjak, a writer who has to earn his living through a wealthy socialite, Patricia Neal, as her "kept" man. Audrey, who plays Holly Golightly, is a gold-digging call girl, who is looking for the right rich man to marry. Though you would think these two would be unflattering characters, they are both very charming and put on phony personas (especially in Holly's case) in order to survive.
You have to marvel at how a woman like Audrey could look so good in anything she wore. At the beginning of the movie when she first meets Peppard, she's only wearing a simple white shirt that she wears as a nightgown or at the party scene when she first comes out and greets her friend O.J. Berman wearing nothing but a sheet made up to look like a dress! Gorgeous!
It's a marvelous piece of acting when Holly first meets Paul in her apartment, and she's talking about how she has to get ready to meet one of her "clients" in jail, Sally Tomato, and she's talking about her profession, looking at herself in the mirror, getting dressed, asking Paul to find one of her shoes, etc., and then, voila! the famous basic black dress and hat with the wide brim. Very stylish - and in the scene she is given much to work with, the way she has to juggle the dialogue and the action of what she is doing all at once. Very natural and sophisticated at the same time.
Audrey is very believable as Holly because her character is someone who is pretending to be sophisticated, hanging around with phony people, but really comes from humble beginnings. Once in a while you will hear in her voice the "country-girl" drawl, and you will see through the facade of Holly Golightly who she really is. George Peppard is also very handsome and believable as the "starving" writer who also has to sell himself out in order to earn a living.
Many complaints have been made about Mickey Rooney and the "stereotypical" portrayal of the landlord Mr. Yunioshi. Yes, it is stereotyped, but nonetheless, I still thought it was funny. The party scene is one of the best in the movie - hilarious! Wonderful score by Henry Mancini. Of course it's a classic scene when Holly pulls up in front of Tiffany's in the New York taxi, drinking coffee and eating a danish in front of the window. New York City itself is like a vibrant, interesting character in the movie. I could go on and on.
And to top it all off, it's a very romantic love story about two people who find happiness in the crazy, mixed-up world we live in. A classic. Recommended to anyone who loves old Hollywood cinema.
An army of fans consider this Hepburn's signature role and in many ways
it is, even if she overcame miscasting to portray it. Based on a rather
biting novella by Truman Capote, he (somewhat surprisingly) wanted
Marilyn Monroe to play the role. The casting of Hepburn couldn't be
more different, yet she made it her own and in the process created an
icon that is every bit as lasting as Marilyn's
skirt-over-the-subway-grate or Bette Davis's off-the-shoulder,
chain-smoking Margo Channing. She plays an offbeat, effortlessly
sophisticated party girl in New York City who subsists on the favors of
various rich men. Though her livelihood couldn't be more tasteless,
somehow Hepburn's presence adds a sheen of innocence and sweetness to
it. When blocked writer Peppard moves in upstairs ("kept" by married
socialite Neal), the two find themselves developing a friendship which
eventually begins to turn into love. But since they are both people who
use their bodies to earn their keep and are heavily dependent on
others, the chances of their relationship lasting are slim at best. To
read the above synopsis, one would expect a gritty, vulgar film.
However, in director Blake Edwards' hands and with Hepburn floating
around in exquisite Givenchy gowns, the movie is a candy box of color,
style, humor and romance.
Even when she's hungover or just getting home from an all-nighter (as in the famous opening scene), Hepburn strikes a graceful and glamorous figure. In fact, it's when she's trying to act disoriented or disheveled that her performance is at it's weakest. It's as if she was so inherently stylish that she had to try (too) hard to present anything else! She does a very fine job with the role, even if the character's past is nothing short of preposterous. Peppard comes off as blandly attractive, but wooden. His arrogance regarding his role (fiercely protecting the traditional leading man image) not only undercut his own performance, but also slighted that of Neal's who was diminished as a result. However, sentimental filmgoers probably prefer his more heroic approach and Neal would certainly recoup her losses, earning an Oscar a short time later for "Hud". The most controversial aspect of the film is Rooney's portrayal of an Asian man who lives above Hepburn and who is awakened at all hours by her lifestyle. Whether or not one is offended by the over-the-top stereotype of the buck teeth and slant eyes, the role is not funny anyway! It's all way too forced and obvious, with his pratfalls in sight long before they occur. (A lamp exists RIGHT over his bed for the express purpose of giving him something to hit his head on continuously. Move it, already!) There are many memorable moments in the film including a sequence of Hepburn and Peppard doing things they've never done before, Hepburn sitting on the fire escape plaintively singing the Oscar-winning song "Moon River" (which is used throughout the film by master composer Henry Mancini) and wacky party scene (a prelude to Edwards' "The Party"?) in which all sorts of outre things take place including the cry "Timber!" when a tipsy guest begins to collapse. There's a surprising frankness, for the time, regarding Peppard and Neal's relationship. It seems to be one of the earliest Hollywood films in which the leading man is implied to be nude under the covers in his bed. The film is not without its flaws. Some of the dialogue is annoyingly indulgent and the storyline is fairly patchy (with a tacked on ending.) Still, with the sparkling presence of Hepburn (in some mind-blowing hats and costumes) and the slick work of Edwards, it is easy entertainment.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" preserves an idyllic time and place in the American
psyche, New York City between WWII and The Great Society. A time when being
hip and urbane were accessible (and desirable) to the middle-class.
The film's" the two romantic protagonists are Holly Golightly, played wonderfully by Audrey Hepburn, and Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard in an understated performance that well complements Hepburn's. Holly is an aspiring socialite and party-girl looking for a wealthy sugar daddy. Paul is an aspiring writer and kept-man of a wealthy older woman. Neither is happy, but both go through the motions in a swirl of Manhattan parties and parings.
Everything falls nicely into place in this romantic-comedy; directing, musical score, acting, and screenplay. Filmed on location in New York this is a beautiful, captivating movie, that has not only aged well, but is a time machine to a wonderful place that probably really never existed except in our imagination.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The main reason I like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" so much is because I
think it is one of those rare romantic comedies that actually
transcends the genre and becomes a genuine love story. I have a theory
that most love stories that get made aren't really about love. They're
either about romance or lust. I don't think that many people in
Hollywood (or society in general today) even know what real deep,
meaningful love really is. "Breakfast at Tiffany's," on the other hand,
is one of the most beautiful real love stories ever told.
"Tiffany's" is basically about a woman who is incapable of loving. She considers herself a "free spirit" a "wild thing," an independent, adventurous woman who lives for the moment. She is also a bit of a social outcast because her "profession" is essentially that of a call girl. Whether or not she actually sleeps with all of these men (or just some of them) who pay her is unclear, but she definitely uses them. She is not a woman of high moral character and despite her constant "up" attitude and optimistic outlook, she is really quite lonely. It's all a reflection of how she really feels about herself I think. It's almost as if she needs to keep trying new things and distracting herself from the truth, because if she were to actually take a moment to stop and look at herself, she would be confronted with how unimpressive and ordinary she really is. She would also have to face the fact that she is not really that stylish. She is an actor playing a part. "Holly Golightly" isn't even her real name. As I said, she is incapable of loving others because she doesn't really even love herself. She feels she is unlovable. Her self-perception is really quite low and that's why she concocts these huge, elaborate fantasies about being elegant, classy and witty. When I first saw the film, I was so impressed by the charm and beauty of Audrey Hepburn that I instantly fell in love with her. The more I watch the movie, the more I realize how utterly sad and pathetic (yet still likable) her character really is. As Marty Balsam says in the film: "She's a phony, but she's a real phony."
Paul Varjak, the character played by George Peppard (pre A-TEAM days of course) is in a similar situation. He is also playing a role and has a lousy self-image. He wants to write but has had such a hard time at it that he has resigned himself to taking money from a married, rich woman, who considers him to be her "good time" on the side, for his living. Paul and Holly start out as simple neighbors, later become friends and eventually fall in love which ends up scaring the pepper out of Holly. She's okay flirting with someone but as soon as she crosses that line over into falling for someone, she becomes afraid and runs away. She sees love as a "cage," something that stifles people and sucks the life out of them. She needs help. She needs someone to love her and she needs to be able to love them back. This man is the perfect one for her because he needs her just as much as she needs him. They can help each other. They can lift each other up. By themselves they are nothing but together they are complete. They are two miserable people who can find happiness in one another.
I like movies about redemption. Stories about otherwise lowly people who are raised to the heights of happiness through love (without it seeming forced or sentimental) are exceptionally rare but when they do show up they tend to appeal to me (that's the reason why I like the story to "Sabrina" so much too). I will never EVER forget that last scene in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" where Holly is finally confronted with the painful truth that despite all her attempts to deny herself, to hide from her own "ordinariness," nothing about her has really changed. As Paul says "No matter where you go, you just keep running into yourself." She admits that she is lonely and unhappy. She goes back for the cat that she set free moments earlier upon realizing that she was coming dangerously close to "owning" him. In going back for the cat she is really going back for herself. She sees herself as the cat and, in fact, there is frequent imagery throughout the film that connects them (Holly wearing the cat mask that she steals from the shop, "Nine Lives" being the name of the book that Paul wrote, etc.). She didn't want to give him a name because she didn't want him to belong to her, she would consider that "caging" the animal. So she called him simply "cat," but over time "Cat" ended up becoming his actual name. In reclaiming the cat she is sort of reclaiming her own life. For a few moments it looks like "Cat" may be gone forever, but when she hears the soft "meow" and pulls him out of a cardboard box, she is elated. She is the happiest woman on earth. Like the cat, she was lost but now is found. She embraces the cat and kisses her love, Paul, as they stand in the rain. The music swells (Gotta love that "Moon River" song) and the screen fades to black. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest endings of any movie ever.
What can you say about Truman Capote's masterpiece? It is brilliant!! Hepburn is wonderful as a young woman who is on the verge of insanity, but unknowingly to most around her. She is confused and lost in the world, and she meets Paul, both having sex with the wrong people, both confused about who they are and where they are in the world... they are"two drifters." Holly is a character that remains classic, and Hepburn played her brilliantly!! I love this movie, it will make you believe in love, and what girl doesn't truly love Tiffany's? Moon River is also a truly beautiful song that expresses the mood throughout the movie. It also has a few surprises, and is witty and charming.
I am never sure which Breakfast at Tiffany's is. I can certainly think
of movies which more accurately portray the human condition, but of few
that are more fun.
Neither Holly nor Paul seem to represent real people. Their attraction, which is the focal point of the movie, is a character unto itself. Paul sees Holly as scared, vulnerable, and in need of rescue and enjoys his role as potential knight in shining armor to her damsel in distress. She is drawn to him because he sees beyond her facade of fabulousness to the scared little girl she is inside and which she tries (not that hard really at all) to hide. Adding to her attraction to him is the fact that he stands up to her when she treats him shoddily. This probably does not happen to her too often, and it intrigues her.
These are mostly the tricks a romance novelist uses to keep readers baited and rooting for a fictional, possibly doomed romance to work and do not reflect the real nature of love. There is, however, enough chemistry, genuine affection, and respect between the two characters to keep the story from seeming utterly implausible.
Of course, a movie doesn't have to be realistic to realistically portray what is right and what is wrong with the world we live in. Breakfast at Tiffany's doesn't do a whole lot of that either, though. After watching I can never pinpoint one solid message from it.
What it does have a lot of, as many others have pointed out, is stylish, witty, good fun. This is almost always the movie I choose on the rare occasions when my husband is working late, my son is asleep, I have energy to spare and good bottle of wine just begging to be uncorked. Believable or not, it is well-told and compelling, and remains one of the better movies a gal can lose herself in.
A lot has been said about this film, so I won't repeat too much of it. I
just thought the following points stood out for me as wonderful:
-The telephone Holly keeps in a suitcase so she won't hear it. Holly. Ahhhh... Holly. Like some kind of female opposite of James Bond (stick with me here), men all want her, women all want to be her. We need to see *more* eccentric women in leading roles, as opposed to the dull boring stodge of overpaid 'sex symbols' like Julia Roberts or Nicole Kidman who can be pretty or serious but never interesting.
-George Peppard in his finest role, and brilliant it is too. It's a real shock to my generation that has been more accustomed to seeing him tragically underused on trash like the A-Team. It made me want to see more of his early films, and wonder what happened in the intervening years (alcohol, apparently :-( ). An icon of male sensitivity, and there are few enough of them around too.
-That chap who sells them the telephone dialler in Tiffany's. A tiny role that achieves its aims perfectly and makes life seem better, which is what you want really.
Many have said Tiffany's is too saccharine and cheerful, but I think it actually hits the perfect balance of cynicism and sentiment. There are moments of intense depression (which people often forget) as well as hopeful optimism, and these two working together are what make the film so uplifting and memorable.
The celebrated author on whose novel it was based despised the film
version, describing it as "mawkish." The star wasn't much more
enthusiastic; she never considered it among her best work. And the
reviews were mixed. But regardless of what Truman Capote, Audrey
Hepburn, or the critics thought about it, the public adored it--and the
image of Audrey Hepburn wearing a black evening dress, nibbling pastry,
and window shopping has passed into our cultural iconography.
The film is indeed lightweight stuff. Audrey Hepburn is a New York good-time girl who makes a living by clipping her wealthy escorts for fifty here and fifty there. When she meets handsome George Peppard--a writer who makes ends meet by trading favors with society matron Patricia Neal--can love be far behind? But Audrey's mysterious past and her determination to marry rich, George's status as a kept boy-toy, and their occasionally questionable associates provide plenty of complications to fill out the story.
What makes the film work is the remarkable charm of its two stars. Most of the attention goes to Audrey Hepburn and the film shows her to remarkable advantage: she is a remarkable actress, personality, and beauty, and she works wonders with the ultralight script. But when it comes to charm, George Peppard is no slouch either: the film catches him at the height of his early golden-boy good looks, and he is the perfect foil for Hepburn in both their comic and dramatic scenes. Mickey Rooney's excessive performance as Yunioshi aside, the supporting cast is also very entertaining, with Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam, and Dorothy Whitney all give enjoyable turns. The film looks great (make sure you get the widescreen version), the score (which includes "Moon River") is excellent, and director Blake Edwards keeps everything moving at a pleasant pace. This a great film to cozy up with on a cold night--romantic, entertaining, and as comforting as a cup of hot chocolate. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
The famous film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is supposedly based upon a brilliant novel by Truman Capote.Excellent music by Henry Mancini, the striking elegance and charm of Audrey Hepburn, the big name of Blake Edwards as the one of the best Hollywood entertainers promised an unforgettable picture.Alas! It turned out to be the most disappointing film versions of all the times.First, there is no trace of the original message of the novel(I hear that the author was not very happy about film version either), which gives no hint of any sugary-sweet romance at all, and the character of Hollie had been grossly transformed (if not mutilated).Second, the actors and their protagonists are a horrendous mismatch:Audrey Hepburn (with all my sincerest admiration and love for her)plays some girl poor Truman Capote had never dreamed about of putting into his novel: too naive and pure, too high-class and too sweet to be a "real phony" as one of the film's characters (O.J.Berman )calls her.Mr Peppard is absolutely wooden, so he looks and sounds the phoniest of all with his love confessions.Mickey Rooney is a bad (really bad!) caricature of a Japanese ( forget about political correctness, it is just bad taste!)man. It is a great pity that a really wonderful piece of writing has had such a disappointing destiny in Hollywood! Though for those who know Hollywood tastes and culture it is no surprise at all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Much beloved movie, mainly because it's the iconic Audrey Hepburn role.
And as an image she's fabulous, the definition of early-Sixties glamor.
The opening sequence, which shows Hepburn eating pastry and staring
through the window at Tiffany's as the melancholy strings of "Moon
River" wash over everything, is one of the classic intros in movies and
a personal favorite.
Considered as a movie it's flawed, though, full of off-key notes and wrong turns. Rooney's Asian caricature is pretty offensive, but a worse problem I think is the dialog throughout, which is very arch and mannered and "writerly" sounding, as well as the nods to Hollywood convention (the party, the gamboling about NYC , the silly paternal Mafioso -- one can imagine somebody insisting that there better be some fun, dammit, in this movie). Most importantly there's a general restraint throughout the picture: the real story here is sad and dark, and it's aching to get through, but instead it's stamped down with a lot of overly-cute Hollywood bits.
Yet that dark story is powerful. Both Peppard and Hepburn are badly damaged people, the fact that they get together (albeit awkwardly) is a tribute to the magic of movies, but their relationship, full of quiet suffering and little hurts, seems very real to me. Peppard is effective as a nice guy who's falling for the wrong woman; Hepburn has some pretty awful dialog, but her performance as a woman who's self-deluding as a way to defend herself from despair (as Martin Balsam says, she's a "real fake") is very strong. This is what I liked best about the movie.
Well, that and Audrey Hepburn herself -- one of those performers for whom movies were invented, she is just amazing to watch. You've heard the cliché "the camera loves her"? Never was that more true than with Audrey Hepburn.
Good, too compromised to be great.
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