Everyone has something they do to give themselves a pick-me-up when the world seems dark. Some indulge in their favorite coffee house drink. Others get a workout at the gym. A hot bath, round of video games, you name it. For Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, her pick-me-up is looking into the windows of Tiffany’s, at all the fine and expensive things.
Her problem is that she is always on the outside of the lifestyle she wants, looking in. She lives in a tiny, bare apartment with a nameless cat. The only money she makes is from visiting Sally Tomato (Alan Reed) in Sing Sing (her happy name for prison). Yet, she dresses like a socialite and holds loud, swinging parties at her place, with plenty of drinks flowing. In the moment, she seems to be on top of the world. When it’s over, she stubbornly keeps her lifestyle going.
When Paul (George Peppard), a young writer, moves in upstairs, he in instantly sucked into Holly’s world. There is something about this talkative young woman, whom he meets only wearing a men’s tuxedo shirt, he is unable to turn away from. She’s spunky and confident, yet a total wreck that he feels a need to protect.
But there is much more to Holly than meets the eye. Buried under all that social elegance and love for finer things is a past that Holly is running from. We understand later her fear of commitment. It’s why she can’t name her cat, be with anyone exclusively or even hang get some real furniture (for the record, I love her bathtub-sofa). She sees any committment as a cage and desperately wants to stay wild and free. Can Paul tame this girl, or would he even want to?
What Breakfast at Tiffany’s does perfectly, is put the characters first, conflict between them second and romance somewhere towards the back, so it can evolve naturally. We come away knowing Holly and Paul so well, they feel real. When we know them like this, their problems become much more compelling, like they’re our friend’s problems. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care about the budding romance of two strangers, but I genuinely worried if Paul and Holly could find happiness, both together and apart.
At the Oscars, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was nominated for a few awards, but seemed to have come just shy of a best picture nomination. It picked up awards for both best music scoring and best song, Moon River. Its nominations were in art direction, adapted screenplay, based off of Truman Capote’s novella, and lead actress by Audrey Hepburn. If Hepburn had not been nominated, it might have caused outrage to this day.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not a film I expected to enjoy as much as I did. While the characters are an odd sort, they feel inviting and compelling. The twists in Holly’s past were a bit shocking, but only added new layers and deeper understanding to her character. Same with the revelations in Paul’s character. Mickey Rooney’s role as Holly’s comically angry landlord is interesting, even if it is over the top and racist. I would advise all classic film fans to give this one a try. It’s hard to tell who exactly will enjoy it, but it’s an essential film of the early sixties and Hepburn makes it worth the time.
“Thursday! It can’t be! It’s too gruesome!”