Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)


A gorgeous classic if not one that questions belief in highly unbelievable properties of character. The romantic element plays nicely against the comedy backdrop of the increasing situation in Holly Golightly’s quest for money and marriage and even with a usual Hollywood ending, what comes before makes the film the genuine delight it still is.

Holly Golightly has fled from a previous less extravagant life and now spends her time in New York hanging outside the jewelry store – Tiffany and Co. A new neighbour enters her building and life and becomes a friend and symbolic mirage of her brother. They become close and soon Paul Varjak finds out more about Golightly’s life and her obsession to find a rich man could drive them apart.

Firstly, the music is simple but effective in pretty much only using variations of the ‘Moon River’ score to play over scenes. It’s great in setting a trend and by recognising the tune but hearing it as mellower or faster makes you appreciate the visuals on screen as something sadder or more jolly. The peak of all of this though is in hearing words placed to the music as we first hear and then see Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) sing ‘Moon River’. Hepburn is enchanting and before we along with Varjak (George Peppard) we can hear her beautiful tones wafting through the scene. Then there she is sitting at the window with a guitar and looking the most casual we see her throughout the movie. A calm and gentle girl next door image as Varjak falls in love with his downstairs neighbour. A haunting and subtly glorious song sung to sweet heaven by Hepburn.

The comedy throughout is in scenarios of exaggerated circumstances and mostly between Holly and Paul. The entire scene with them going round the city taking it in turns to do something they’ve never done before is brilliant. The sshing in the library, the conversation about what 10 dollars can buy them in Tiffany’s and then the attempt to steal something at a cheap store is highly amusing. The simple turning around of them wearing cartoon masks is hilarious and charming and you can’t help but fall in love with them through the comedic adventure they’re sharing. There’s a sort of comedy in the police turning up at Golightly’s party as she gets away, even pointing to her place to the police as she goes. The biggest fail in in this movie is in the attempt at comedy in Mickey Rooney’s character of I.Y. Yunioshi, the Japanese upstairs tenant who is so over the top that it becomes a grotesque caricature of Asian people, especially with the slapstick accidents afforded to Yunioshi in his flat and the fake upper teeth that send him flying over a cliff’s edge into needless send up. At the time it may have hit the mark but now it’s offensive. It’s a sad racial joke causing cringeworthy reactions everytime he appears, a big thing in showing how times have changed.

The romance is cliched and especially the kissing in the rain feels like a highly expected final image to go for but it’s true that you can’t help but want Paul to get together with Holly. Through all her upended life and one of a kind apartment with a phone in a suitcase and a shoe in a bouquet of fruit she deserves love and not money. The payoffs she gets from a criminal in jail, the money she desires from a Rich American and a Brazilian. Money is the biggest card played in this film with Golightly wanting it and trying to save for the return of her Army fighting brother and Paul trying to write again after not publishing anything for a while. A sponsor pays him so in some sense the two of them are the same in needing money and getting paid amounts through their life. In the end Paul proclaims how she can’t escape herself as she’s trapped in her own cage. A clever analogy of her close mindedness in only wishing for wealth. The most poignant moment after this declaration in the back of a cab is the arrival of Golightly’s husband who loves her and wants his past woman back, she gets rid of him not wanting to look back. Her life that she can see is just money, marriage and Tiffany’s where she’s always happy. The fact she always says she’s happy is a way to realise she probably isn’t and it’s the touching reminder as Paul throws her the engraved Cracker Jack ring that she was happiest with him and she wants him after all.

It’s also a sad comparison in Golightly being as nameless as her cat. They belong to nobody she believes yet soon we realise Paul wants her to belong to him and she can’t see that as right, she doesn’t think people should belong to anybody. Though we know they should as the cat sadly looks through the rain, after being dumped out by Holly, at the taxi as it drives off, a tool to show that this cat does belong to someone and that’s Holly and so too must Holly belong to someone at that’s the man she met from the beginning. A fun and fancy relationship that needn’t depend on money and therefore is one that deserves to work.

Audrey Hepburn is utterly perfect in this role as someone extrovert yet vulnerable. She acts the highs and lows of Golightly with conviction and the moment she receives the telegram is heartbreaking as you guess what it reads. She is constantly glamorous and radiant. A performance of flirty playful characteristics as she tries to find the right rich man yet her strongest moments are when she is side by side with Paul as this is the man she should really be with. The camera helps show the perfection of Hepburn as when we get close ups the background is blurred, almost looking smudged as if to highlight the beauty of Hepburn even more. She exudes a quirky fun nature as she first meets Paul, trying to get dressed and scoot around her place finding things. The way she acts the speeches about the mean reds and blues is powerful, so too with the numerous mentions of the rats and super rats in her life. She’s an over the top character but grounded as much as can be thanks to Hepburn’s performance.

A true Hollywood classic in an iconic role for Audrey Hepburn that mixes together a concoction of romance and comedy to tell a sometimes unbelievable yet engaging story of love and identity.