You’ve seen the poster. Audrey Hepburn stands against a pink backdrop with an elegant cigarette holder, a cat draped across her shoulder. Or she stares frankly at you through sunglasses in front of a black and white New York City. You feel more cultured just by looking at it.
Plenty of people hang up posters like this without ever watching the movies they advertise. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a 1960 film directed by Blake Edwards, is in its turn based on a 1958 novella by Truman Capote. However, it’s so deeply entrenched as a cultural icon that lots of people hear “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and think of neither the novella nor the movie, but of a song about two people in a relationship who only share in common the fact that they have seen (a rarity) and liked this film.
A relationship like that is about as stable as the one the movie portrays. If you think Breakfast at Tiffany’s is your typical Audrey Hepburn chick flick, beware. The movie is much more about Audrey Hepburn creating a quirky, innocently sophisticated, and slightly bipolar character named Holly Golightly than it is about the romance between Holly and her neighbor Paul Varjak.
It’s hard to say whether or not you should love Holly. She’s associated with ex-mobsters and “gentlemen escorts,” but treats them just the same way she treats her unnamed cat—like an animal that needs someone to watch after it for a bit. She won’t settle down for any conversation, let alone a relationship, but she still plans on marrying a South American millionaire. Her parties cause chaos all over her apartment building, but she climbs up the fire escape to visit Paul so innocently that it seems he should be offering her hot cocoa rather than alcohol. And, of course, she eats breakfast at Tiffany’s, chasing away her worries by staring at the jewelry sold in the store.
As for Paul—well, for the viewer he acts as our eyes. We wonder along with him who this slightly manic woman is living above him. Does she understand the danger of some of the things she does? Why is she so fantastically bouyant at her parties, and so neurotic when she’s alone? Will her mood ever stay the same for more than a few moments?
We don’t get the answers to a lot of these questions, but there are two types of people who will watch this movie. The first will watch it, get to the end, and wonder why some insane character has not only taken two hours of life from them, but has also given them no resolution. The second will watch it and will, like Paul, be too caught up in the way Holly charms us into her personality to worry much about what will happen after they finally decide they were meant for each other.
And yes, romantics out there, fear not. They do finally decide this, with a cinematic kiss in the rain—complete with a soggy cat sandwiched between the lovers.
If you’re looking for a mindless way to make yourself smile, then Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not, perhaps, the movie for you this time around. But if you’re looking for something to make you endearingly scratch your head and grin, then this is it: the chick flick to make you think, without any pressure to come up with answers—just the way Holly would have it.