So, bored and feeling poorly with a cup of tea and Netflix by my side, I decided to finally give Breakfast at Tiffany’s a go. It’s pretty iconic, referenced all over the place, and just seemed like one of those films that should be seen, you know?
Unfortunately, I think the majority of it was lost on me.
Don’t get me wrong, the sets and costuming were lovely. (And that alone has been enough to hold my attention in some movies– there are plenty of mediocre films I’ll sit through just for the sake of the eye-candy.) It’s just… everything else, mainly. Is it a matter of not aging well? That’s probably a big part of it. To wit:
- Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi. Mickey Rooney. As Mr Yunioshi. “Cringey” doesn’t even really begin to describe it. Times were different when this movie was made, and I’d be willing to look at this portrayal as being a product of its time– an artistic demonstration of racism that nobody can or should pretend just didn’t happen– and assume that Mr. Rooney, the director, and the rest of the movie staff incharge of writing and casting came to know better after the fact. Rooney’s response left a little something to be desired, though.
- The various men in Holly’s life who equate paying for dinner with hiring a prostitute. One man even says that he’s entitled to “some rights” because he funded the date he and Holly were on. That’s super gross and obnoxious to begin with. It’s compounded by the fact that Holly calls men like this “rats” and “super rats,” but those appellations are also equally likely to be applied to men who commit such sins as “not having as much money as she thought they did” or “deciding to marry someone else,” so I have a hard time deciding if there’s anyone who isn’t an asshole in this equation.
- The Adaptational Sexuality that turned Capote’s gay writer protagonist into a one-dimensional straight foil for the heroine. It’s another product of its time, but that doesn’t make it any less sad.
So, in many respects, the movie’s shortcomings are relics of when it was made. It also relies on Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Blithe Spirit tropes, two things I’m really not fond of in fiction. I knew both of these things going in, but I figured I’d watch it anyway. Why? Because the premise of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is pretty close to a French movie that I absolutely love: Priceless.
In Priceless, Audrey Tautou plays Irène– another social-climbing gold digger living it up on other people’s dimes. The similarities end there, though. Where Holly is (or attempts to be) a naive ingénue, Irène is cunning and clever. This is demonstrated as early as the first scenes of both movies– Holly is living in a dingy dump with no furniture and an unnamed cat, Irène is three months away from marrying her wealthy older fiancé.
This isn’t to say that Holly’s only problem is that she comes off as less capable than Irène, though. Throughout the course of Priceless, Irène continues to use her charms and tried-and-true gold-digging schemes to win herself another fiancé– all while falling for Jean, who she even manages to teach a few tricks to help him get by after he loses his job. Throughout the course of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly continues trying to win a wealthy fiancé for herself… all while ignoring Paul’s obvious declarations of love. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the climax of either film: Irène is moments away from a successful coup when she realizes she wants Jean after all, while Holly turns to Paul in a moment of sheer desperation after exhausting all of her other options. There’s a relief to Irène and Jean’s ending that isn’t there with Holly and Paul. While there’s a sense that Irène has learned that love conquers all, there’s an even stronger sense that Holly’s desperation is not going to last long enough for her to be content with a poor writer.
Have you watched either or both of these movies? How do you think they stack up against each other?