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Breakfast at Tiffany's - 1961

Breakfast at Tiffany's - 1961

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, directed by Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther movie series) and written by George Axelrod (The Seven Year Itch and The Manchurian Candidate), is loosely adapted from a Truman Capote novella of the same name. This is one of, if not the, most iconic role in the illustrious career of Aubrey Hepburn as Holly, and if the black dress wasn’t on the map before this movie, it certainly was after this movie came out. The story centers around an eccentric socialite from New York trying to avoid real human connections by looking for a future with the first rich man to marry her.

I feel I need to address the controversy first and then move on to all the positives within this classic. While I understand that “we” as a society have progressed through the years and we have a better grasp of what is considered racist and what is not when we compare ourselves to the 60’s, Holly’s landlord is of Japanese descent and this movie for some reason decided to cast comedy legend Mickey Rooney, you know a white guy, in the role. How do you fix this mistake? Make-up, fake teeth, a kimono and a bad accent. I’m not breaking ground here since this has been talked about extensively, so I will just touch on how bad the performance was and how it broke the rhythm of the movie for me. There are key plot moments in this movie where we learn more about Holly and get deep into the story only to have it ruined by cutting to Rooney and his weird comedy skit. This is a huge flaw in the movie that turned me off from time to time, not allowing me to fully embrace it.

Quick note: another small controversy was how Capote reacted to the movie. He felt betrayed by the studio with the casting of Hepburn, since he wanted a Marilyn Monroe type, and what they did with his story. He didn’t like how they gloss over her dark past or the happy ending they gave it, calling it, “a sugar and spice confection.”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is almost considered a synonym when it comes to Aubrey Hepburn. I watched this movie for the first time for this review, yet ever since I knew who Hepburn was I knew Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the dress (designed by Hubert de Givenchy). That image is deeply cemented in the zeitgeist of our culture. Luckily for us as the audience, the movie doesn’t make you wait for that iconic dress since the opening scene is her in it, eating a breakfast as she window-shops in front of Tiffany’s. I always wondered about the title and it’s so simple that it’s perfect.

Aubrey Hepburn’s performance is a treat on the eyes and on the ears. She plays an extrovert that moves among her friends and lovers - or clients, depending on how you look at them - as if she rehearsed every single move beforehand. On the surface, she can be viewed as a naïve person focused solely on money, but once you dig deeper you realize she is simply trying to never experience again the poverty and the darkness of her upbringing and teenage marriage.  Her persona is completely different from all of her previous roles and it was famously difficult for Hepburn to play this character since she identifies herself as an introvert. While I have enjoyed other movies from her, this is definitely her career-defining role.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s takes you into an unexpected world. I had no clue that Hepburn’s character was a call girl – well, Capote has fought that label, saying she is more of an American geisha. Her love interest is sleeping with a rich, older woman who pays for all his bills and gives him an allowance. They connect with each other due to their similar lifestyles and eventually fall in love despite Holly's best efforts to keep him at a distance.

While I fully understand why many people and critics hail this movie as an all-time classic, I just didn’t connect with the characters and the story enough to honestly care about it. Yes, the set design, the music and her acting are more than memorable, it’s just not enough to overcome a predictable ending and a horrendous comedic relief. Despite all its faults, I still recommend watching it just to enjoy the iconic images and her amazing performance. Hepburn smoking out of a ridiculously long cigarette holder is why I love movies.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Pour yourself a coffee, grab a pastry and have some fun.

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