Essential Film: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Director: Blake Edwards

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard

Year: 1961


 by Michelle Buckley

The image of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s has come to epitomise style and elegance; it is one of the most iconic symbols of old Hollywood. However, it is far more than just a reminder of a bygone era or a pretty picture: it is also one of the best films ever made.  Those who have never watched it might assume all that style comes at the sacrifice of any substance but that is definitely not the case. Sure, Hepburn looks flawless throughout the entire film but she also delivers a lovable and interesting character.MBDBRAT EC032

The story centres on Holly Golightly, a New York City socialite whose extravagant lifestyle is paid for entirely by a string of wealthy suitors. She becomes interested in her new upstairs neighbour Paul Varjak, a writer who no longer writes and is taken care of by his wealthy mistress. On paper Golightly sounds like some awful gold-digger, however on screen she is funny and enchanting. Her many small oddities make her a delight to watch: Golightly keeps her phone in a suitcase, drops by her neighbour’s window unannounced and refuses to name her cat. Hepburn managed to nail the quirky girl long before Zooey Deschanel had grown her first fringe. These quirks are well balanced with her vulnerabilities; ultimately she is a girl who came from nothing, surviving in the big city the only way she knows. Her drive for money doesn’t come from a desire to be rich, but as a means to take care of her brother once he is out of the army. It is also something she is upfront about as she simply tells Varjak that she’d marry him if he had money.  Even her obsession with Tiffany’s isn’t materialistic; it is simply a place she feels at home, which is something she’s never had. In order to enjoy any film you have to be invested in the characters, which is easy to do when they are as charming as Golightly.

Golightly is a self-proclaimed ‘wild thing’, not the kind of girl to ever be tied down. Trying to tame her is like trying to catch a tornado with a butterfly net, but it doesn’t stop Varjak from trying. You never really feel like he’s going to succeed, however. Unlike most romantic comedies the outcome is never certain. Nothing is forced; everything is a natural progression in their relationship and remains true to the characters. At no point does anything feel like a ploy to ramp up the drama like in some rom-coms, just so they can be reunited at the end. Their relationship is interesting enough to hold your attention, which is why it remains the focus and is not weighed down by pointless sub-plots.

I am not a purist. I read a kindle, I think vinyl records are obsolete and I love living in the modern world, so it is not often I say ‘remember the good old days’. But when it comes to this movie I can understand why people call it a classic. It is a romance story that was made before Hollywood worked out their generic formula for box office gold. There is no trace of the cut-and-paste, one-dimensional romantic heroines we have nowadays, like the clumsy but beautiful girl, or the uptight workaholic. Hepburn manages to elevate the character of Holly Golightly far beyond that. There is a reason she became an icon and watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s makes it easy to understand why.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);