“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” may just be the singular, classic girl movie. It may even be the first. Back in 1961 when this was released, Old Hollywood was still marketing movies to everyone, not just men or women. It also existed in a time when being chic and stylish was coveted no matter your gender.
But today ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s” the film, I can’t really speak for Truman Capote’s novel, has attained a new sensibility. Holly Golightly’s party animal sex appeal and looseness, her free-spirit conviction and her cute, yet sophisticated style and flair has made her an iconic symbol of the girls just wanna have fun lifestyle.
She has a cat too. And it goes without saying that the role could not be played by anyone but Audrey Hepburn. At once her presence is glamorous and endearing. Her skinny demeanor and foreign pronunciation helps her become a slightly disheveled wild card, but boy does she clean up nice.
The movie is super cute, even if the melodrama with Holly’s ex-husband Doc doesn’t really work and if the relationship between Paul (George Peppard) and his “designer” friend isn’t fully explained. Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of the Japanese landlord is also all kinds of racist, for what its worth. It maybe even goes on a bit too long, putting in something like the awkward noir sequence where Doc follows Paul, whereas it should focus more time on the criticisms of the bourgeois.
Those are the moments I found most enticing. Director Blake Edwards is so animated and agile in his editing and placement of the camera to create a hauntingly fun and hypnotic montage of excess and eroticism. He shoots from high angles to demean the woman laughing with herself in a mirror, and then gets down by their clumsy feet to reveal them as obtrusive and oblivious giants with horrible, drunken behavior. It’s a deliciously infantilizing slice of life.
Much of this works because the art direction is designed to emphasize the film’s bold Technicolor. Edwards uses deep focus and crisp lighting to make the luxurious apartments and clothes pop. He even is careful to frame Hepburn as a naturally slinky and sexy temptress. He’s constantly accentuating her curves in long and medium shots and then dresses her with a gigantic, sloping hat when she’s shot in close-up.
Holly may not be the perfect role model, but she and the movie are both so adorable that if someone could keep their life together half as well as Holly somehow manages to (despite the ballet shoes in the fridge and the phone in the suitcase), I can’t think of too many girls who would hesitate to try to live in the same way.
I think “Breakfast with Tiffany’s” is much like its signature song, “Moon River.” It’s fairly unnecessary and inconsequential when you think about it, but it’s so damn lovely and lush that it’s hard to not be a favorite.