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Breakfast at Tiffany's Review

Many people think Audrey Hepburn is one of the greatest things to ever happen to American cinema, and that puts her in a very short list of “classic” actors to hold such a fierce loyalty amongst their fans. She wasn’t a particularly brilliant actress and it’s as easy to argue that her characterizations were rather shallow in comparison to others of her generation, but she managed to delight audiences in just such a way that she became box office gold. The best example of that drawing power in spite of her shortcomings is Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a film where Hepburn plays an inexplicably connected aspiring socialite whose naivete and quirkiness attracts gentlemen left and right and makes her a hit at parties. Before Sex and the City this was that film that misinformed young women of what the quintessential New Yorker life was, but coming from the demurely outgoing Hepburn, you care less about the consequences of the mislead and just tend to enjoy her own tumble into the harsh realities of love and life in the big city.

Holly Golightly lives an idyllic life in a nice but scant apartment in New York City. She’s charming to the last and gets by with sweet talking and flirtation when money’s a bit too tight (i.e. she’s between would-be suitors). She has her choice of men, but none of them pique her interest as much as her new neighbor Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a discouraged writer with a severe case of writer’s block. They spend an increasing amount of time one another, through casual chats, parties, and nights out drinking and soon their relationship has become more complicated. As Paul finds himself falling ever more in love with Holly, she seems not to notice and pronounces her love for one aristocrat after another with the intention to marry and spend the rest of her days in luxury. One by one, those potential nuptials fall apart and Holly has to decide what and who she really loves.

Rewatching Breakfast at Tiffany’s today, it’s hard to imagine how a film like this would play out in a culture less concerned with a lady being prim and proper in the presence of a gentleman. At given points, Holly pushes the envelope where lady-like behavior is concerned, and her accidental mishaps are played off as mere whimsical points of comedy instead of grievances or whorish indulgences – an allowance modern, less sensitive audiences might see as overly sanitized and unrealistic. Even if Holly lives with her head in the clouds and even if the audience wants to do so for two hours of romantic escapism, there remains a point where what was necessary to avoid offense in the 60s comes across as cloying today. So much so, in fact, that were it not for the gradual deterioration of Holly’s fantasy with Paul there to witness it, the whole affair might just be unpalatably absurd. Except we do get to see the cracks of Holly’s façade, we see the past she’s tried to run from manifest in a very real form on her front doorstep, and so there’s just enough reality seeping into the story of Holly Golightly that it remains a lighthearted diversion and not just a passé relic of a simpler, prudish generation of filmmaking.

The remastering of the film for HD was done well and 50 years later Breakfast at Tiffany’s looks perfect. The tight New York apartments and the extravagance of Tiffany’s come through sharply and the audio couldn’t be better. The film may be a good story filled with simple characters learning complex lessons on love, but on the technical side, there’s no reason not to buy Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Blu-ray.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Three of the featurettes appear in HD and they include pieces on Mickey Rooney as the stereotypical Asian landlord, composer Henry Mancini’s score, and the party scene in Holly’s apartment. The standard extras (as in definition and quality) are a basic production featurette, an examination of Hepburn as an exemplar of style, the significance of Tiffany’s and its iconic blue box, the letter Audrey Hepburn wrote to the jewelry company, and photo galleries.

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" is on sale September 20, 2011 and is not rated. Comedy, Drama, Romance. Directed by Blake Edwards. Written by Truman Capote (novel), George Axelrod (screenplay). Starring Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard.

Oct
11
2011
Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.

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