The Film Canon: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

breakfastBreakfast at Tiffany’s, based on the Truman Capote short story of the same name, stars Audrey Hepburn in one of her most prolific roles as Holly Golightly, a flirty, ditzy socialite. (With an iconic black dress!) She is accompanied by a cat named Cat and her neighbour Paul Varjak, potential love interest and struggling writer, as well as a host of colourful characters including dodgy dates, a mobster incarcerated in prison, a Hollywood agent, a persistent ex-husband and a rather lecherous upstairs neighbour, Mr Yonioshi. (Played by Mickey Rooney, whose stereotypical caricature of a Japanese person has been subject to much criticism.)

Hepburn dazzles as the bubbly, impulsive girl-about-town, whose diminutive stature belies a larger-than-life screen presence. Meanwhile, George Peppard’s smouldering frustration and palpable seriousness as writer Paul is the perfect complement. Holly’s madcap antics and the resultant situations she finds herself in are a delight to watch, as is the constant banter.

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Underlying the comedic elements, however, is a sense of melancholy – Holly was a child bride who abandoned her home town and is now trying to save up money to support her brother Fred when he leaves the army. There is an element of vulnerability to Holly – it is implied that she’s working as a prostitute, and she at times appears to be just a young woman overwhelmed in a big, bustling New York City.

The film concludes on an entirely different note to the novella – while I’d like to avoid spoiling it completely for those of you reading this, suffice to say it ends on a far more optimistic note, as befitting a romantic comedy.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s was generally well-received at the time, and currently holds an 87% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Capote, however, was unimpressed with Hepburn in the main role – he apparently wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part. The film is also a much glossier, happier version of the book, and overshadows much of the original despair. Despite this, Breakfast at Tiffany’s remains an utter joy to watch, and is a glamorous, humorous and much smarter take on the rom-com genre compared to so many of today’s offerings.

Favorite quote:

Paul: Holly, I’m in love with you.
Holly: So what?
Paul: So what? So plenty! I love you. You belong to me.
Holly: No. People don’t belong to people.
Paul: Of course they do.
Holly: I’m not going to let anyone put me in a cage.
Paul: I don’t want to put you in a cage. I want to love you.
Holly: It’s the same thing.

Hannah is a twenty-something born and bred Capetonian who adores reading and reviewing books, and encouraging critical discussion on all things pop culture. Currently a politics graduate student, she spent two years working in digital marketing before deciding she missed the student life. Loves QI, travel, dark chocolate, fantasy & YA books, pilates and sarcasm.