The troubled friendship of a pair of hustlers
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Directed by Blake Edwards.
Written by George Axelrod, based on a novella by Truman Capote.
Starring Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal.By Stephen Brophy
It's not always easy being a hustler. The work is not particularly demanding, especially if you have any acting talent. But something about it sets you apart from everyone else and makes it difficult to relate normally with anyone, especially with another hustler. That is the premise behind Breakfast at Tiffany's - as well the film's strength, insofar as the story is honest with itself.
The story is simple. Hustlers meet, despise each other at first, but then become friends because they can be honest with each other. But when friendship begins to blossom into something deeper, the fact that they are hustlers threatens to keep them apart. The tone of the story is deceptively light and romantic, not much different than a Doris Day comedy. The tone is underscored by the lush strains of Henry Mancini's musical accompaniment, especially the Academy Award-winning song "Moon River" and the film's location in the always-romantic Greenwich Village.
Audrey Hepburn dominates the movie with her sometimes charming, sometimes maddening portrayal of Holly Golightly, a young woman who supports herself on the money men give her for trips to the powder room. Holly seems to be the epitome of freeness if you do not think too closely about her dependence on her gentleman friends, and that is the attraction for Paul, her downstairs neighbor. He is a writer kept on a short leash (and therefore craves freedom) by his interior designer patron, a character which, although played by Patricia Neal, would make more sense played by a man, if such a thing were possible in a movie made in 1961.
Paul, played by a handsome young George Peppard, has published a book of short stories, but his patron insists that he focus on writing novels, and this insistence cripples Paul's will to write. Paul and Holly, enjoying a series of comic and serious adventures, find comfort with each other and freedom from the pretense of their hustler lives which increasingly grows to feel like a cage. The limits of this cage are effectively explored as the narrative grows a little darker before its final romantic cop out. Capote's novella has a more astringent ending and one that makes more sense.
Buoyantly directed by Blake Edwards, who went on to do the Pink Panther series, 10, and Victor/Victoria, the movie shows few signs of age. The most major flaw resides in a racist impersonation of a Japanese photographer by Mickey Rooney. Breakfast at Tiffany's is probably a good date movie if you don't think to closely about some of its implications.