Paramount // 1961 // 114 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Margo Reasner (Retired) // January 21st, 2000
Audrey Hepburn plays that daring, darling Holly Golightly to a new high in entertainment delight!
Blake Edward's Breakfast at Tiffany's is a light-hearted romantic comedy set in New York City during the early '60s. Not only does Audrey Hepburn deliver a stunning performance but we also are treated to a look at an era of our society that has long since disappeared...
Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn -- Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Charade) lives in an apartment in New York City. Her livingroom furniture consists of an old clawfoot bathtub with one side cut away and cushions added to make it a couch, a wood crate for a coffee table and, for decoration, various suitcases stacked and arranged around the room to give it a less empty look. Her live-in companion is an orange tabby named "Cat" because she feels that they don't really belong to each other and to give the cat an actual name would acknowledge that they have a lasting relationship. She makes her living by dating wealthy men and accepting $50 bills whenever she needs to go to the powder room or catch a cab home. Sometimes these men expect something more intimate from her and she often is avoiding one of them as they bang on her front door demanding services for money paid. We meet Holly early one morning as she's having "Breakfast" at Tiffany's. She's elegantly dressed, complete with pearls, window-shopping at Tiffany's while eating a pastry and drinking coffee from a cup that came from the paper bag that she's clutching.
Later that day Holly meets her new upstairs neighbor, Paul (but you can call me Fred if I remind you of your brother) Varjak (George Peppard -- Newman's Law, The Blue Max, Pendulum). She shortly finds out that he lives in a lavishly decorated apartment and is visited regularly by his "decorator" who pays him money for services rendered. When she asks him what he does for a living he shows her the novel that he wrote several years ago and claims to be writing another one, but when she looks at his typewriter she sees that it doesn't have any ribbon. Needless to say, both of them have plenty of free time during the days and as the movie progresses we find out more about Holly's past and present while watching her and Paul's relationship develop.
This movie is based upon the novel written by Truman Capote and the screenplay written by George Axelrod was nominated for an Oscar. The movie also garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction (Set Decoration, Color) and Audrey Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress. Although Sophia Loren won for her role in La Ciociara I don't think that many would argue that it's very difficult to determine where Audrey Hepburn ends and Holly Golightly begins when you watch this movie. Holly is played to perfection by Hepburn as a sophisticated jet-setting woman with child-like vulnerabilities. And whether we see her in a black, full-length gown with a two foot cigarette filter in her hand and a sparkling tiara on her head or dressed in an old sweatshirt and jeans playing "Moon River" on her guitar we believe in her, like her and only hope that things will turn out well for her. And speaking of "Moon River."...I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it won an Oscar for Best Music (Song) and that Henry Mancini won another Oscar for this film as well for Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture). Henry Mancini's music perfectly captures the haunting nature of the film's message; Holly's desire to belong to someone while being unable emotionally to reach for it.
And while all this is going on the backdrop is New York City at the beginning of the 1960s. The first thing that you notice while watching this is that there aren't thronging crowds everywhere that you look and that the place has a sense of innocence. The clothing and the society we see also are a time capsule of a time gone by. The gowns and jewelry are very simple and elegant, but the coat that Holly wears, while having classic lines, is a very bright orange color (half a step in the '50s and half a step in the '60s to come). And the party scene at Holly's apartment would be repeated in numerous 1960 films to come with the only difference being that the clothing would be more psychedelic in nature.
The picture is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The colors were rich and vibrant and the film was surprisingly clean looking for its age. I did notice a little edge enhancement on my widescreen set up and if it didn't have that it would have rivaled some of the best anamorphic transfers I've seen. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and although this is mostly a dialogue driven film, there was some noticeable separation of sound that added to the overall enjoyment of watching the movie. The only extra on the disc is the theatrical trailer, which is also enhanced for 16x9 sets -- nice touch.
No matter how you dress it up, some viewers just aren't going to be interested in a story involving a carefree, happy-go-lucky call girl who meets her counterpart in a male. Further, others might see Holly as being totally irresponsible and be turned off by that. For those that make it past these objections there will be the portrayal of Holly's Japanese landlord (Mr. Yunioshi) played by Mickey Rooney (Boys Town, Andy Hardy's Dilemma, National Velvet) that some will find disturbing. If none of this bothers you to the point of distraction, then Breakfast at Tiffany's could be the perfect way to spend a quiet afternoon.
Audrey Hepburn fans and classic film buffs are going to want to own this one while most everyone else should at least give this one a rental.
The film itself is totally acquitted. Paramount could have given us more extras with less edge enhancement on the transfer for the widescreen folks, but otherwise it's a quality disc.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Theatrical Trailer