Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tiffany's. Paramount Pictures 1961.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Paramount Pictures 1961.

Before watching the movie:

Apparently this is about a socialite falling in love with a writer. I don’t see from that description why this is one of Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic films. I expect that must be coming from the writing and the performances, because the synopses I’m seeing aren’t particularly persuasive, and nobody ever talks about why this is such an enduring movie, they just namedrop it and others are expected to know. The least glowing reference I can think of is the couple in the song of the same name agreeing that they “both kind of liked it” as the first common ground they can think of to save their relationship. And there’s an entire, very catchy song about that.

After watching the movie:

Writer Paul Varjak moves into a New York apartment rented for him by an older woman in a patron with benefits arrangement. His downstairs neighbor is impossible to miss. Holly Golightly is a socialite with a taste for fine things and little money of her own. Her main source of income seems to be “money for the powder room and the cab” from the men she picks up every night, as well as an ongoing arrangement to meet a criminal in Sing Sing every week and have a pleasant chat with him about the weather. Eventually, Paul learns that she’s been a young country wife and an actress, but no lifestyle can hold her caprice for long. Paul wants to help this girl find the meaning her life is missing, but she’s a free spirit who won’t be tied down.

This is pretty much melancholy throughout. Holly is already beginning to tire of the rats she dates in her current lifestyle and there’s little else to recommend it. She has hardly any furniture, her landlord is truly awful yellowface always yelling at her, and she’s basically broke. It’s essentially depression and angst from beginning to end, with some wit and levity because there is always some temporary relief from life’s troubles.

This movie is so talky one might think it’s from a play, but it’s actually from a book apparently. It’s not even all that interesting of dialogue usually, though it does have some very eloquent scenes. It’s just a story that’s so introspective, everybody is constantly either discussing their feelings or philosophies, or relating backstory. There is always more backstory.

What’s really unfortunate is that there are some great philosophical statements that are in service of the losing side of arguments. There are probably posters out there that say “we belong to nobody”, but that is coming from someone who hasn’t learned the moral yet, which casts the whole story in the light of a cautionary tale about 60s progressivism versus traditionalism.

This is wry and bleak in a very modern, thoughtful way that is just fun enough to get through the aura of sadness, which makes it a beautifully depressive film. It’s the kind of story that seems to abandon its point in favor of finding a more positive resolution than really fits, but it is certainly making its points well otherwise. I just don’t fully agree with the points being made.

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