Breakfast at Tiffany’s

BreakfastAtTiffanysSuggested by Brad Nelson • A film that stars quite a bit of talent, Breakfast at Tiffany’s remains not just one of the most memorable romantic films of all time but a film that exemplifies the beauty of Audrey Hepburn, the chic style of the times and more.
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23 Responses to Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m not sure why I’m reviewing this. I don’t want to trash a classic, per se. And yet with this movie fresh in my mind, I can hardly avoid that.

    It’s a very nice performance by Audrey Hepburn and that’s about the extent of the acting accolades. The rest might as well have been cardboard cutouts that were propped up next to Miss Golightly. George Peppard exudes nothing. Patricia Neal gives a drive-by performance.

    But the problem with this movie isn’t the acting. It’s the empty calories. What are Truman Capote (the movie is based upon his novel), George Axelrod (screenplay), and director Blake Edwards trying to say? Actually, I found the technical aspects of his directing to be good. But it was all good-looking pasteboard.

    You could call this the Seinfeld of movies because it seems to be about nothing. I could write drivel. But if you dressed Audrey Hepburn in the best of Givenchy, you too could write a Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

    The Tiffany’s angle isn’t even very well done. There should have been some iconic moments of the country girl longing to be the sophisticate, perhaps staring at a jewel in the window case that she can’t afford. Something. But it’s all just drive-by themes, perhaps denoting the emptiness of the kind of urban outlook typical of that class of people. So when they make movies, what should one really expect?

    Still, I think Director Edwards did a good job with the material he had. And lest my criticism be confused with disagreeing with the morality of the movie, it’s not that. By all means, give us a glimpse of the shallow superficiality of the “cultured” class. One of the better scenes (which ran too long and, yet again, lacked much depth) was the party at Holly’s house.

    But give us some meat. Give us a reason to care, to laugh, or even to despise some of these characters. For instance, the entire relationship between Peppard and Patricia Neal is wasted. There’s no introspection there…and there’s barely the portrayal of careless callousness which I think they were going for (at least on the part of Neal). But, again, it was just drive-by acting and drive-by characters. Who cares? What does it mean? Oh, it’s all very stylish and looks good, but the dialogue is often dull, dull, dull when there was plenty of opportunity for punch.

    Martin Balsam shows some comedic life as O.J. Berman. But who is he? Why is he there? Again, there is as much substance to these characters as the gum you would scrape off the bottom of a lunch counter. And one could try to make the point that this is the point, and yet that is not an excuse for not making the point well or doing so in a much more entertaining way. But certainly the best running joke was Balsam calling Paul “Fred, baby” instead of “Pete, baby.”

    Mickey Rooney as the landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, is way over-the-top. It’s such a strange mix in this movie. This performance would have been jarring in a Dom Deluise movie. But next to the stylish Hepburn, it was extremely out of place.

    As weird as it was, perhaps Buddy Ebsen gave the best performance and shot a little substance and realism into this movie — a movie which ends, of course (spoiler alert) with Hepburn and Peppard getting together. But the happy ending feels forced, if only because there really is no chemistry between Peppard and Hepburn. They are “in love” only because the script has told us so.

    Still, this is watchable if only to watch Hepburn who is eminently watchable. As one-dimensional as her character is, it’s a credit to her performance (and looks, and dress designer) that she can prosper as a star in a movie that is otherwise empty calories.

    Reading a few comments at IMDB.com, apparently even Truman Capote didn’t understand the point of the film, so perhaps this isn’t a very good adaptation of his book. And regarding the point of this movie, I agree completely with the comment of this one poster: As far as I can tell, the point is that Audrey Hepburn was a very cute and famous actress, and this was a chance for her to be filmed.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I believe one reason the film had no point is that, in the book, Holly was a prostitute; a high class one, but still a prostitute.

      In the movie she is more of a gold-digger. Hepburn the prostitute could have been more jarring.

      And I agree with you that there was really no emotion in any of the relationships.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yeah, this movie really wimped out on defining Holly Golightly. Was she a mere escort? A call girl? An expensive tease? What? We don’t know. We see her glibness, her attempt to always smile walking past the graveyard, but rarely if ever glimpse the grave. We get no grit. Her tears and fears at the very end when her South American beau walks out on her and Peppard gives her some long-past-due psycho-analysis are very well done by Hepburn. But it’s too little, too late. And it’s hard to believe that anyone gives a squat about her and Peppard.

        There are faint glimpses of the inner Holly — her sparsely furnished apartment, for example. But the shtick with her never having a key speaks more of prima donna or a ditz. And that’s basically who she is despite the conceits of the movie being about “finding yourself” or, more aptly, “creating yourself.” This movie was like cotton candy: It was tasty in bits but a full meal of it makes you feel empty.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      As far as I can recall, the only connection to the title is the opening scene of a woman (presumably Hepburn, but it was at a distance and I didn’t know her as a performer at the time we saw the movie) getting off a bus and eating pastries from a bag at the street corner, presumably just outside the jewelry store.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        For me, Timothy, that very thin connection with the title presaged so many other thin elements of this movie. Granted, Hepburn, her personality, and her wardrobe, are reason enough to watch one of her movies. But this movie felt like the filmmaker simply expected the Hepburn name to carry it, not unlike the shlock Hollywood typical puts out in sequels to blockbuster movies, expecting the name itself, with a “II” behind it, to be all they need to cha-ching at the box office. (And, sadly, often enough they are right.)

        But what a nice commercial for Tiffany’s. Talk about the ultimate in product placement. That movie must have been worth tens of millions in free advertising. I wonder how much of a boost they got from it. And would a Tiffany’s employee really be so tolerant about engraving a prize ring from a box of Cracker Jacks? Okay, it’s a movie. But I found that amusing on at least a couple of different levels. I love the guy who played the man behind the counter, John McGiver, known for many charming and humorous bit parts in movies and TV.

  2. Glenn Fairman says:

    Humanity has always had that tendency to chase rainbows; to be something other than the part they have been assigned. Set against a NYC backdrop, a subtle critique is offered from Capote on American Modernity and the creatures it molds for its comedies and tragedies. Capote was an insider, and yet, he never really belonged nor respected those who were attracted to the Golden Ring. His “A Christmas Memory,” starring the flawless Geraldine Fitzgerald, reveals this yearning for love in its sincerest form. It could be one of the most lovely Christmas tales–revealing the sins and virtues of a time that exists no more.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Maybe his novel is worth reading. I “got” that one of the main themes of this movie was remaking yourself. Perhaps that’s why the Buddy Ebsen segment felt like the first part of the movie with any substance. We get some back-story — as creepy as that is. We see what Lula Mae (or whatever her real name was) was running from. One can only wonder why a brother who could make it in the army needed her to take care of him.

      A movie based on the premise of a make-over would have at least been about something. But that theme is very thin insofar as Holly Golightly is concerned. She dons that theme like one of her stylish dresses…that she soon dofts in preference for tomorrow’s fashion.

      There’s no doubt the Audrey Hepburn was more than enough actress to carry the theme of choosing one’s own identity, and the travails that go with that. We just don’t get much exploration into that.

      I like your comment about Capote being an insider who never really belonged. Those who actually do social commentary (as opposed to merely doing circle-jerk flattery of reigning standards, particularly if those standards have thick conceits of superiority) typically are outcasts. The entire 60’s hippie generation is built upon this vapid standard of flattering self-deceit regarding how one has supposedly transcended the bounds that held all lesser generations back from societal perfection.

      I found 1966’s A Christmas Memory on YouTube. I might give it a watch when I get the chance. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    I cannot watch it without welling up. Crazy, how some things just seem to affect you that way.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I hope so. Usually I lose a little water with “It’s a Wonderful Life” or my other holiday favorite, ” The Feminist Crashes and Burns on 34th Street” featuring extraordinary performances all around, including Maureen O’Hara in arguably her finest role.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    Hepburn’s scene in the rain looking for Cat made the experience worth it for me. She was a wonder: especially in The Nun’s Story, which I reviewed long ago in Art and Habit.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, that was a scene with (wait for it) meaning (and poignancy as well, of course). The first moment in the movie that had any emotional impact at all for me (as well as some grit) was when she abandoned her cat to that back alley. The message was that she was willing to ditch anything and anybody in her pursuit (as thinly as it was articulated in the film) of the kind of royal presence that, I guess, Grace Kelly finally achieved.

      Was the rest of the movie worth getting to that point? For me it wasn’t. It was simply a somewhat artistically painful reminder of what could have been had they ran the script past the brain-trust at StubbornThings first. I can hear Mr. Kung in the first meeting: “George Peppard? Are you out of your flippin’ mind?”

      That review of yours can be found here: Art and Habit. I liked the movie, with the reservations that I noted.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I like George Peppard, but think his acting style is rather cool. He does not radiate emotion and is always very self-contained.

        I believe this is problematic for his part in the movie. The relationship between his character and Holly must be about more than emotion. It must be about passion, and I don’t mean only physical passion. These are two screwed up people looking for answers, completion or just someone to hang on to.

        On the other hand, I think Peppard’s physical appearance is perfect for a younger kept man. He is prettier than the woman who is keeping him.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I think Peppard’s style suited well such movies as: The Blue Max, Tobruk, and other war films. I don’t think he worked well as a sort of Cary Grant substitute. But, whatever. At least he wasn’t like one of today’s metrosexual girly-men.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            At least he wasn’t like one of today’s metrosexual girly-men.

            Peppard was one of those very handsome, almost pretty guys, who was also very masculine. There are not many around today.

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    What would a social-archeologist of the future say about the accoutrements of late 1950’s Americana? It is a bit of an inside look at what was esteemed fashionable near the republic’s apex — America’s cool, self-confident swagger and the seeds of its degeneracy are found here.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I was just talking about that very subject with my younger brother the other day. I was watching a “best-of” set of Bugs Bunny cartoons. There was no warning label on them then not to stick your face inside the barrel of a cannon while Bugs lighted the fuse, not to bang someone over the head with a mallet, or not to step into the ring to fight an enraged bull. And I told my brother, and this is an exact quote, “How can the generation that grew up on Bugs Bunny have turned out to become such complete pussies?”

      But they did. Was “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” really and truly secretly subversive? For all the kidding they get at being unrealistic, what else could have caused the meltdown of decent society? And I mean that in the sense that in the 50’s, unlike now, it wasn’t wall-to-wall twerking. Perhaps the problem is the inundation by, and obsession with, entertainment itself. But much of the entertainment back then was at least arguably wholesome. And maybe subtle hands were at work and got the result that they wanted: We’ve all become Eddy Haskels…or worse.

      There are certainly seeds of degeneracy to be found. And it’s incredibly ironic that they would be found — wherever they were found — in a society that knew such great success.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        And not just Bugs Bunny and other cartoons. If the young back then were as stupid as they are thought to be today, no Three Stooges fan would ever have had functioning eyes. It never occurred to me to do an eye poke, or for that matter to throw pies around.

        Incidentally, Rush Limbaugh got a call many years ago from the actor who had played Eddie Haskell, who was a fan of the show.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Was “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” really and truly secretly subversive?

        I used to say the problem with the Baby-Boom generation was that they watched too much TV such as “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best” and they believed life was the way it was portrayed on the small screen. The fact that life isn’t that way caused a certain amount of cognitive dissonance which manifested itself in the insanity of the 1960’s Left.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Certainly having unrealistic expectations has produced a number of deleterious effects. Somewhere between being satisfied with living on a dirt floor and expecting the moon is sort of sweet spot, the progress-oriented American Dream approach. You work for better, deal forthrightly with what is, and are thankful for what you already have.

          Sane formulas such as this have been lost to a society that literally has dumbed itself down to such an extent that about all it can handle are the ideas the will fit on a bumper sticker or a fortune cookie. “Black lives matter.” Etc.

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    I was lucky enough to have not worked as a substitute on that day in San Bernardino, but I did work the next two. It is notable that few HS students would venture to offer an opinion when I opened it up for discussion. I got a sense that it was old news and that since it did not involve them directly, it wasn’t important enough to compete with the flood of images vomiting up out of their phones. Happy slaves all……

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m trying to work my way through Audrey Hepburn’s “The Children’s Hour.” But it’s proving painful. The synopsis of the movie at IMDB.com is concise:

    A troublemaking student at a girls’ school accuses two teachers of being lesbians.

    This is obviously another “socially conscious” movie whereby 3 or 4 stars are added onto it for the subject matter. But this has really been quite boring. I’m about 45 minutes into it. I don’t know if I can hang on. I have only my “social conscience” to sustain me.

    By the same token, I’m trying to find something by Carole Lombard that I like. I watched part of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” last night with Lombard and Robert Montgomery. I’m an old movie buff, but this is like watching paint dry. The shtick is that Lombard and Montgomery find out years later that their marriage certificate isn’t valid. Will they remarry, especially after Montgomery let on that if he had to do it all over again he would stay single?

    Who cares? Honestly. This is another movie I don’t think I can stay with. But I sift through this stuff so you don’t have to. My “social conscience” is to find the gems.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I still suggest Wait Unitl Dark if you haven’t seen it yet. Hepburn was never better. I first saw it in 1982, when it was on TV opposite the World Series (game 7, of course). I switched back and forth to see as much as I could of the movie (based on Stephen King’s comments about it in Danse Macabre) without missing too much of the game.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’ve got “Wait Until Dark” in the queue. I think I’ll set aside “The Children’s Hour” in the category of “Life is too short”…the same with “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” However, I have higher hopes for 1964’s “Bedtime Story” with Marlon Brando, David Niven, and Shirley Jones. Stay tuned.

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