a critiQal film review Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Plot: Holly Golightly (Hepburn), a flighty Manhattan party girl, meets a young writer (Peppard) when he moves into her apartment building. Since he hasn't published anything in years, he is a kept man by a wealthy older woman (Neal). While Holly's life confuses and fascinates Paul, he finds himself falling for her. But can Paul fulfill Holly's expensive tastes?

701 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 30s)

When we were looking for the next movie to watch for our TBT Review, Carmella suggested Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I had never seen the film. In fact, the only thing running through my head was a line from that song of the same name by Deep Blue Something (“And I said, ‘What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?’ She said, ‘I think I remember the film and as I recall, I think we both kinda liked it’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s the one thing we’ve got'”). So I said why not?

So would Breakfast at Tiffany’s have done well over the years? Or is this 1961 film too dated to be worth our time today?

Audrey Hepburn stars as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and really looks to be in her prime. Despite her character being flighty, somewhat brusque, and just plain odd, she endears herself to viewers anyway. She captures the camera lens and holds it through all of her scenes, making it easy to see why she was such a big star in her day. She brings a depth to her character that isn’t expressed in the film, simply with her presence.

George Peppard, who made a name for himself much later playing Hannibal in “The A-Team” (TV) looks very young by comparison in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. His character, Paul, seems much more down to earth and normal, but he is continuously outshined by Hepburn in every scene. While he does a solid job in his role, it’s obvious from the start this is Hepburn’s movie, and he can do nothing but try and keep up.

The rest of the cast is decent enough, with the exception of an appalling Mickey Rooney. Despite not having much screen time, his hugely stereotypical Asian is a disgrace. Overacting like there’s no tomorrow, he turns Mr. Yunioshi into one of the most shameful characters ever to grace the screen. He’s supposed to be the comic relief, but his awful portrayal – which pokes fun at Asian characters and just looks like Rooney in bad costume – is so bad, the viewers will find themselves cringing whenever they see him, or even hear his high-pitched nasal whine.

The plot itself is incredibly outdated, and highly misogynistic. Holly Golightly is a single woman with a mysterious past, a flighty dimwit who gets herself into trouble all the time with her “male companions”, and Paul, a kept man, does his best to try and save her from herself, while condemning her lifestyle. While Hepburn manages to give Holly a strong will and a likeable presence, Breakfast at Tiffany’s seems to treat her as more of a frail creature that needs protection rather than a woman who can make it on her own. The condemnation of her lifestyle by Paul is especially off-putting, since her search for a wealthy man – whomever it may be – seems to exactly mirror his status as a kept man to a wealthy woman. Talk about the pot and the kettle!

Almost in spite of all its problems, however, Breakfast at Tiffany’s still manages to hook it’s viewers, and it’s easy to see why this film has become a classic. With Audrey Hepburn’s outstanding performance, the viewer can’t pull away from the film, despite it’s issues. Sure, Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunioshi is a disgrace, and the film’s blatant treatment of women as flighty and incomplete without men is an outdated and ridiculous concept, but the relationship that develops between Holly and Paul is still worth watching.

Their day out on the town, taking turns doing things that they have never done before, is just as timeless as ever, and a highlight of the film. Viewers will find themselves caught up in the fun, and thinking about taking a day to do just that with their significant other. And if that’s not a testament to the timeless appeal of this couple, what is?

With Audrey Hepburn in her prime, and George Peppard providing a solid counterpart for her, viewers will be drawn to the couple in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, finding themselves returning again and again – even if they have to put up with the film’s more cringe-worthy aspects of the film.

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