"I'm like cat here, a no-name slob. We belong to nobody, and nobody belongs to us. We don't even belong to each other."
For the last two blog posts, my focus is going to be on actors and actresses and their performances. While researching some of the best actors and actresses of all time, I encountered a few people I've already watched in some of the movies from this project, like James Stewart (Vertigo), Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca), and Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca).
When you act, you're essentially pretending to be someone else. And in that sense, actors and actresses are able to let go of inhibitions and play someone that might be completely different from them. They're able to take risks and experience things through another person's eyes. However, actors/actresses also say that acting is completely revolved around one's own life as well. The more vulnerable and exposed you are, the more genuine your acting becomes. Meaning, you should use your own insecurities, personality traits, and experiences to help portray a character.
I wanted to watch a movie with a prominent actress first, so I was deciding between watching a Meryl Streep movie or an Audrey Hepburn movie. I was in the mood for a bit of a happier film so Sophie's Choice wasn't really going to cut it. I decided to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's, which is another one of those movies that has affected our culture so much that you "have to watch it."
Click HERE for Breakfast at Tiffany's Summary
Yup, I had my reservations before watching this one as well. I had heard about the yellow face issue (which we'll get into a bit later), and the sheer exposure I've had to references to this movie throughout my life made me a little skeptical. I was afraid the movie wouldn't live up to it's name and that it would be pretty shallow.
And while there are some things I could complain about in the movie, I'm still a sucker for a romantic comedy.
So yeah, I liked it. The opening sequence where Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) gets out of a yellow taxi, and eats a pastry with a coffee while staring at the window of the Tiffany & Co. Jewelry Store was so charming to me. Maybe it was the tune of "Moon River" playing in the background, or the elegant and timeless style of Golightly's little black dress, but I was already interested. When Paul Varjak (George Peppard) introduces himself to Holly, she invites him into her home and treats him like someone she's known forever. She describes her visits to a man in Sing Sing prison, named Sally Tomato. The whole conversation and scene already shows you what kind of a person Holly is, and Paul seems just as confused and captivated as the audience is. The audience then learns about Paul through Holly, when Holly sees "2E" (Patricia Neal) leaving a sleeping Paul money, then kissing him on the head. Paul is a struggling writer who has written one published book called Nine Lives. Paul needs the money. Holly nicknames Paul "Fred", after her brother who's in the army. The character of Fred Golightly is used as a way to make Holly seem more human. Amongst all of her ambition, she still cares the most about her brother. I was conflicted about whether I liked Holly Golightly or not. A basic description of her would be an ambitious and seemingly shallow "socialite". That description doesn't sound promising at all, but when you're introduced to her character, something about Holly makes her likable. Through all the times she exhibits her shallow attempts for money/power, I still rooted for her. Paul seems to believe in her as well, and always tries to make things right with her.
Before I go any further, I wanted to talk about the questionable and problematic parts of the movie. The first thing is obviously Mickey Rooney's yellowface portryal of the character Mr. Yunioshi. I cringed whenever Mr. Yunioshi had a scene. Not only is it bad that they hired a White man to play the role of an Asian man, but it's even worse that the character Mr. Yunioshi is filled to the brim with Asian stereotypes, and is reduced to the laughing stock of the movie. Comic relief is one thing, but Mr. Yunioshi is another. I didn't laugh at any of the scenes with Mr. Yunioshi in it. And while many Asian-Americans have boycotted this movie specifically for the yellow face aspect of it, I didn't let it stop me from watching it. It made me see how even in the context of a decent movie, yellowface/blackface/brownface/redface or any type of offensive racial stereotyping like that is distasteful and horrible. Another thing I want to get out of the way is Holly a.k.a Lula Mae's weird marriage to the much older Doc Golightly. She was married to him at age 13/14, and fled from their home when she was 15. Paul seems a little disturbed, but Holly/Lula Mae seems to be completely fine with Doc when he comes to New York to bring her back. Her reasoning for not going back with him is that she wants to follow her dreams. But in my mind, I was thinking "Oh, it's not because he's a creepy dude DECADES OLDER THAN YOU?!?". The whole thing with Doc didn't last long, and seemed to be there just to set an origin story for Holly. But it still weirded me out. Now, let's talk about Holly's character itself. She is widely labeled a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (remember that tired trope?). And yeah, quite honestly, she has all the elements of one. You could argue that she has her own purpose in life because of her dreams for her and her brother Fred, but those are thrown to the side when they kill off Fred in the movie. Holly dresses eccentrically, but not too eccentrically, she's kind of a drunkard (but of course still has to look cute when she's absolutely hammered), she can be painfully honest, she sings to herself and plays an instrument, and she's the object of a kind of bland male character's affections. Oh, and that male character literally said "You belong to me" to her. Welp.
And yet, despite all of this, I still enjoyed this movie. I think it's interesting how I was so painfully aware of all the outdated ideals in it, but I was able to really be invested in the characters and their story. Maybe it's a weird society thing. Maybe it's the whole concept of a developing romance, complicated by conflicting feelings on either side. Maybe it's just the genre of romantic comedies. Whatever makes this movie so darn likable, it's something that's still in movies today.
"The script is not altogether neat. No justification or explanation is ever made of why Peppard is being kept by a wealthy lady, except that he is a writer and writers, presumably, get involved in things like that. Miss Hepburn is responsible to a great degree for the credibility of her complex character and gives a winning portrayal. Peppard virtually overcomes the script deficiencies in his character, because he is an exceptionally virile young leading man who achieves the aura of manliness without sweat."- The Hollywood Reporter
The opening scene of the movie.
One of the standout roles in the movie wasn't even played by a human: "cat" was Holly's nameless companion.
A drunk Holly describes her intentions to Paul.
I really liked this scene, where Paul and Holly are attempting to steal something cheap from the store. It's silly and sweet.
Yikes. Let's just say you mean this in the most romantic and least offensive way possible, okay Paul?
Considering all the things I've complained about, I can't lie that I smiled like an idiot at this ending scene.
Moon River, performed by Audrey Hepburn.
This should go without saying.
Kelby Custodio, Junior at Pacifica High School.