Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wait…Did We Watch the Same Movie? (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)

By: Alex “The Savant” Heisman

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve written a piece in this series but I felt it was finally time to return as I just saw one of the most iconic films ever for the first time: Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I feel no shame in admitting I had never before seen this infamous film as what I understood the themes to be never seemed truly approachable. What I have to say, however, will undoubtedly offend some people, most notably The Older Good-Looking-One, The Good-Looking One’s sister, as I understand that this is one of her favorite films.

It must be understood up front that I’ve never accepted the massive appeal and legend that is Audrey Hepburn. Everyone seems to go gaga over her, I guess from her performance in this film, but I’ve always found her a waifish actress whose sing-song voice greatly distracts from her uninspired line readings. I’ve only ever enjoyed one performance from her, the magnificent Wait Until Dark, but her characterization of the free-spirit Holly Golightly embodies everything I find off-putting about her as an actress. Hepburn’s incredibly exaggerated facial expressions betray the authority Holly so desperately attempts to show the world. The FABULOUS and underrated actress Rosalind Russell so breathes an abundancy of life into her free-spirit character in Auntie Mama a mere three years earlier that Hepburn should have taken a page from her book on how to play such a character.

The only thing thinner than Hepburn’s performance is the plot of the film. Indeed, there is so little narrative that it is essentially presented in vignettes of differing theme stretched over its two hour running time. For one 15-minute section, the movie relies on director Blake Edward’s infamous comedic flair while the next 15 minutes oddly switch to heavy drama without warning. The viewer can tell which emotion they’re supposed to be feeling by the abrupt change in style of Henry Mancini’s oft-lauded score. By the time the ending finally rolls around, the score swells to such bombastic heights as to mirror Hepburn’s completely over-exaggerated and false facial expressions.

Credit where credit is due, however- the film is otherwise very aesthetically pleasing. Blake Edwards’ tight and clever direction harnessed the power of the camera’s lens in conjunction with the cinematographic glow of the overhead lights quite effectively. The well-known, Academy Award winning song Moon River, which actually benefits from Hepburn’s light voice, is one of the best ever composed (although, it seems slightly out of place and a little too epic for this film). Also, two of my favorite actors, Martin Balsam and Patricia Neal, assuredly deliver insightful performances in their small, cameo appearances.

Notice that I have not commented on Mickey Rooney’s unusual, racist performance as the Asian landlord of Holly’s building- I’m still not completely sure what to make of that one.

Audrey Hepburn was most certainly a humanitarian of the first order and had a level of sex appeal surpassed only by Elizabeth Taylor. It is still no small wonder that a mere human being could be as classy as she was. That being said, however, both she and Truman Capote, the author of the original short story, felt she was miscast as Holly Golightly and I have to agree. Indeed, the distinct elements of the character of Holly in Capote’s text (her young age of 19, her bisexuality, her abortion) were sacrificed in the script in order to attract Hepburn to the role and let the studio rely on star power for profit. Go ahead, vilify me in the comments!


  1. Well, although I do love Audrey Hepburn (see Sabrina or Roman Holiday for more nuanced performances), I do not think BAT is not her best film. I think the movie has become rather iconic in the sense of style that Hepburn brought to the role. I think it tapped into some of the coolness and confusion that was the 60's...rejecting the old ways of the past generation and yet still wanting that social acceptance and status.

  2. Correction: I do not think BAT is her best film :).