Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
Director: Blake Edwards | Runtime: 1h 55mins | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Young and eccentric Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) lives off of ‘tips’ for visiting the powder room, so to speak, for wealthy New York men. When she meets lonely writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard) who just moved into her building, she has to decide whether to keep the facade of her life up or let it down to be with a man who understands her more than anyone else.
Hepburn is mostly remembered in popular culture with the hair up, black dress, long cigarette holding Holly from Blake Edwards’ 1961 classic. Its an iconic image which never seems to fade. Although she was only nominated for her performance by the Academy it certainly is a role she will be identified with for many years to come, its the element that most discussions around this film start with, and for a good reason – she is simply magnetic. Although a most light-hearted version than the novella its based off, her fabricated persona and lifestyle ring true with much of the emptiness of the socialite lifestyle, and even though she gets a happy ending it strikes as a warning to anyone wanting part of the materialistic world.
However great her performance there are a few parts that need to be recognised for what they are, especially her neighbour Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney). Although at the time it was meant to be a light-hearted joke, it hasn’t aged well, poorly representing Asian culture and being more racist than comedic. Some of the tension between Holly and Paul is also out-dated, he refers to her as his property, and although he tries to justify it saying that some people are meant for each other, and that they ‘own’ one another, it doesn’t detract from the old-fashioned perspectives on relationships.
Some may not forgive the films for these pitfalls, but around these issues is a superb romantic drama with classy humour throughout. It rings with brilliant golden age Hollywood cinematography and set design, using both to the top of what they could achieve. The many long takes are blocked and acted to perfection, the best example being the party in Holly’s apartment for which Paul turns up midway through, having a wandering discussion with her agent Berman, both highly entertaining and brimming with old age charm and wit.
The script is wonderfully written, and perhaps maybe a more under-appreciated part of the film. Many remember the wit and humour, and rightfully so, but many of the characters feel individually presented, each having their own unique dialects. Some may think Paul’s arc is a little formulaic, but Peppard brings so much charm and likability that you want him to reach that goal, even if it a little obvious. Across the screen from Hepburn, they bounce off each other with so much electricity that if they didn’t end up together, it would feel a disservice to the relationship.
In the end, there is a reason why the piece has been remembered so fondly as it is. Some of the most magnetic performances in a Hollywood production, with the wit and sophistication you’d expect from the greats of the time, and a deeply memorable romance at its heart.