Shaking the core of culture is no easy task. Few will ever do it, and those that do are risking obscurity by changing the fold of the narrative or experience so thoroughly. Breakfast at Tiffany’s plays like a regular old romantic comedy, but soon that behind-the-scenes magic turns it and us on our heads. Spawning a new look for leading ladies and an Academy Award-winning song is no small feat, yet director Blake Edwards and Audrey Hepburn team to make for a finely tuned romantic comedy that doesn’t have much going for its story. But such is the star power of these familiar faces. It gets Breakfast at Tiffany’s into a circle of culturally recognised titans, even though its quality is questionable.
Holly Golightly (Hepburn) is a woman in over her head. Surely she must be? She lives the lavish lifestyle off of the back of bond payments she receives for delivering “the weather report” to a mobster. It is played off lightly and nicely enough, but there is no real conviction here. At times, Edwards does attempt to mould something interesting out of this, but it is too much. He chews off a big chunk of content and chokes down on it, without defining anything specific. There are nice moments throughout, but to remember them would imply they have better dialogue, finer character interactions and a unique display for the leading characters. They do not, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s trundles on much like Golightly does, without a care in the world.
That attitude is a bold move to make for the film. Hepburn’s most defined roles come from her abilities as a performer and her style. Breakfast at Tiffany’s comes solely from the latter. It is not her problem that the script isn’t up to scratch, offering very little in the way of real content, but much for those that wish to see a collection of repetitive gags and jokes strung together under the pretence of romance and mobsters. Romance booms between Golightly and Paul Varjak (George Peppard) because of course it does. What else could happen? They have amicable chemistry with one another, and their scenes together in the early stages of the film are certainly a highlight, it just doesn’t make up for the rest of the plodding story.
Problematic the inclusion of Mr. Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney) may be, it has little (if any) effect on the quality of the film. It is the passable romance that pairs Hepburn with the most suitable screen hero of the time. Eccentricity is palatable and frequently portrayed here. Its visual cues, cuts and clashes of character and colour are all presented with a tight understanding of how such technical merits are going to affect an audience. It is a shame the personalities and performances are not up to scratch. Amicable they may be, they do not signify much excitement or interest, instead, they barrel forth with results that are far from the stellar heights we know these performers are capable of.