The Oscar Project
We are already wrapping up the second week of the 2023 52 Film Challenge and today I’m giving my thoughts on my “classic” movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I used the list from Town & Country Magazine that I posted earlier this week as a guide and just picked the highest ranked film I had never seen.
As I noted the other day, I watched this a little earlier after seeing it was available on Amazon Prime, but only through the end of 2022. It also made a very interesting double feature with last week’s pick, Midnight Cowboy as both take place in New York City and show very different parts of New York society. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released at the beginning of the decade and shows the visual polish of studio features from the 1940s and 50s, while Midnight Cowboy comes at the end of the 1960s and features a much grittier visual style and story. While Tiffany’s is bright and colorful, Cowboy is dingy and dirty.
For those who haven’t seen the film, it features Audrey Hepburn as the young socialite Holly Golightly. The film opens with Holly getting out of a cab in front of Tiffany & Co. and eating her breakfast and this is the only connection to the title in the entire film. Holly meets her new neighbor, a writer named Paul Varjak (played by George Peppard), before she heads off to visit a mobster in Sing Sing prison. She gets paid $100 a week to bring the “weather report” from him out of prison.
At its heart, this is a quintessential romantic comedy that could easily be made today. It’s not too long (just under two hours) and moves along pretty well. There isn’t much wasted in terms of scenes and shots. Looking at it from a 2023 lens, it’s obvious at the beginning of the film that Paul and Holly will end up together, regardless of the shenanigans that go on. I feel kind of bad for Paul because he clearly falls for Holly pretty early in the film, but she goes on about her freewheeling ways, planning to marry multiple other men before finally realizing that the man she needs is right there next to her.
There are two glaring things I have to point out before wrapping up. The first is the introduction of Paul and Holly at the beginning of the film. Paul knocks on Holly’s apartment door when he arrives at the building and she immediately invites this strange man into her apartment as she gets dressed and ready to go visit her mobster friend. Even in that time period, I find it highly questionable for a young woman to invite a man she’s never met who just knocked on her door into her apartment while she’s changing.
The other obvious issue with the film is the role of Holly and Paul’s landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, played by Mickey Rooney. Plenty of words have been written on the subject and Rooney’s portrayal is obviously quite racist. Both Rooney and director Blake Edwards have expressed regret for the character and indicated that they would not portray the character that was it is in the film. It is unfortunate that this role appears in such an iconic and well known film, but at the same time, it provides an entry point for people to have the conversation about racist portrayals like this.
Finally, when I watched the film, I was reminded of a recent film set in almost the same time period, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. The subject of Mrs. Harris’s desire is not Tiffany’s, but a Dior dress that she sees in the home of her client while performing her cleaning duties. Both films have a strong focus on elements of fashion and end up making you just feel good after watching them. I honestly haven’t read anything equating the two films, but feel like they would make a splendid double feature.
I was so happy to finally check this film off my list and also that it nearly lived up to my expectations. I had hoped for a little more oomph, but considering it’s a 60+ year old film, it was quite enjoyable.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?