This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Regional Editor for RiverTown Multimedia, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
The Movie: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal
Director: Blake Edwards
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A young New York socialite becomes interested in a young man who has moved into her apartment building, but her past threatens to get in the way
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88 percent
Brown: A week ago, we watched as Joel Schumacher set out to destroy a classic character with “Batman Forever,” a movie that featured Bat Nipples, a Bruce Wayne that looked like an extra from “American Psycho” and a Riddler who had the actual line of “Caffeine’ll kill ya!” as he bludgeons an old man with a coffee pot.
After watching the destruction of a classic character, this week we look at the creation of another classic character with Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Now, I had never seen this movie and only really knew two things about it: The classic look of Audrey Hepburn that appears on every woman’s Facebook wall at one point and the SUPER RACIST portrayal of a Japanese man by Mickey Rooney.
And it turns out that this movie is the popularization of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which in this movie means to be charming while also a functional drunk… with a SUPER RACIST portrayal of a Japanese man by Mickey Rooney.
I’m gonna go make a bourbon because brown liquor is more available than water in 1960s New York. Froemming, what’s your initial take?
Froemming: Like you, all I knew about this film was the iconic images of Hepburn as Holly that is plastered in college campus dorms across the country. And, of course, Rooney in Yellow Face.
This movie should really be called “Bipolar drunkard who harrasses her alcoholic writer neighbor,” because that is pretty much what this film is. Also, a lot of arciac views toward women by the creepy men in this movie who just can’t seem to understand the word “no.”
Also, we should mention that this is Classic Movie Month here at the JOE-DOWN. After the depressing experience of “Batman Forever,” we really needed to class this joint up.
All right, I’m pouring myself a highball. Why don’t you get this started.
Brown: The movie opens with our leading lady, Holly Golightly (which is CLEARLY a fake name) staring at the window of the jewelry store Tiffany & Co. eating what looks like a McDonald’s apple pie. So, breakfast at Tiffany’s. Roll credits.
Froemming: I envy the metabolism of the people in the 1960s. When you smoke non-stop and drink bourbon night and day, who needs to diet and exercise! Just look at the characters in “Mad Men.”
Brown: Not quite. She walks back to her apartment, where she doesn’t keep a key. So, she wakes up her poor landlord, Mr. Yunioshi and MY GOD.
One of the most revered actors in American history is wearing round glasses and has buck teeth. This movie was around 20 years after World War II. Did we not move on from those terrible-ass Japanese stereotypes? Long Duk Dong from “Sixteen Candles” was tame compared to this.
Froemming: Sometimes here I poke fun of social justice warriors/deplorables as satire of the idiocy of extreme right and left. I can’t here. This was (REDACTED) terrible. I’m sure there were people on the set who were horrified. I was horrified watching it.
Brown: Mac from “It’s Always Sunny” playing Murtaugh was more tasteful than Mr. Yunioshi.
Moving on, Holly is being hounded by a man named Sid, who is definitely a meninist. He’s hounding Holly and is likely seconds away from being all “Oh come now Holly, you like me. You’re a dumb woman. You belong in the kitchen.”
And then there’s more doorbell ringing. Because the first five minutes of this movie is nothing but door buzzers.
Turns out, a new neighbor is moving in upstairs. Insert our male lead, Paul. Or Fred. Or whatever name they came up with him.
Froemming: Paul is new to town, having just gotten back from a foreign land. Look, everyone in this movie seems hopped up on speed and talks very fast, so I missed some points here. Blame it on the pill poppers people, not me.
Brown: From my limited experience with the show, this movie is “Gilmore Girls” with copious amounts of alcohol instead of coffee.
Froemming: It also felt a lot like “Mad Men” with the sexism, smoking and functioning alcoholism.
Paul needs to use a phone, and he knocks on Holly’s door. She had been out all night partying and she is hungover as she badgers Paul with her life story, and we see she keeps her shoes in the fridge.
Addiction is not a pretty thing, folks. This woman is rock bottom and doesn’t realize it. She doesn’t need love, she needs a (REDACTED) intervention.
Brown: Holly also gets paid to hang out with a mafia head and just hang out with him. She doesn’t say much about it. I’m convinced Holly is the 1960s Stormy Daniels.
She also has the audacity to judge Paul on his life choices because he is paid by a woman named Emily for their affair.
Finally, Holly calls Paul, Fred, because he reminds Holly of her brother. I think it’s because she’s like Ron Swanson and calls people by the wrong name so they don’t get chummy with her.
Froemming: Look, this is a blossoming love story between these two characters, and Holly falls for a man who not only looks like her brother, but she calls him by her brother’s name.
This is more creepy than the George Michael/Maeby Fünke love story in “Arrested Development.”
Narrator (voiced by Ron Howard): It was.
Brown: What the hell was up with that date where Holly ends up sneaking out of her bathroom? The guy she was on the date with was banging on the bathroom door. And he sounds like one of the dinosaur tools from “The Flintstones” that does not believe in consent.
So Holly sneaks into Paul’s apartment, sleeps in his bed and has what I can only assume is night terrors about her brother. Then when Paul has the audacity to ask about it, she storms away talking about how she hates snoops.
Poor Snoop Dogg.
Froemming: For someone who invades other people’s lives, she has some gall to be all defensive about her own privacy. She just broke into Paul’s apartment and harassed him at, what, 4 a.m.?
Brown: If Holly existed nowadays, she’d get all angered and pouty if you didn’t answer her drunk text asking to go to Taco Bell for a drunken run of nacho fries.
Froemming: When it comes to nacho fries, I’d get angered and pouty too.
Anyway, the next day Paul comes home to find a box and a note on his mailbox from Holly asking him to come over for a drink, thus we are introduced to the beginning of a codependent alcohol-fueled relationship the likes we haven’t seen since Bud and Sissy’s nightly drunken adventures at Gilley’s in “Urban Cowboy.”
It turns out Holly is having a big party, where the booze flows freely and adults act like sexual predators.
Brown: The party… my god, what a mess. This whole thing was a trippy filter and a background soundtrack of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” away from being pulled from a bad ‘90s movie.
When Paul gets to the party, he is hounded by this Hollywood agent named OJ who spills the beans on Holly’s quaint beginnings before becoming a member of the New York social class. And the whole time, OJ talks like he wants Paul to find him photos of Spider-Man.
At the party, we find Holly keeps her eyes on a portly fellow named Rusty, who is the ninth richest man in America under 50.
Who is Holly Golightly? Take it away, Kanye:
Actually, we find out her real name is Lula Mae Barnes, and that OJ taught her French to get rid of her awful Southern accent. That and copious amounts of bennies probably killed that slow drawl.
Well, the noise of the party (well every night) is too much for Mr. Yunioshi, who has the police called to end the madness that is the 24/7 party his drunken tenant lives. But Holly sneaks out with Rusty, points the cops up to her apartment and now Paul has to sneak José da Silva Pereira (the next president of Brazil or something) out before the media catches wind he is in some seedy party in Manhattan. So, out the window they go!
This movie feels like it is 90 percent people escaping out windows.
Brown: OK, whoa, we can’t gloss over the fact that there is a woman at this party who passes out and we never see her again. We may have witnessed a death… and people just dance over the corpse! This party is nothing but a bunch of unfeeling drunken hooligans, led by Ms. Holly Golightly, a woman so intoxicated that if she quit drinking cold turkey, the cumulative hangover would kill her.
Seriously, this party looks ripped from a 1960s Batman episode where Cesar Romero’s Joker gassed the room with some gas that makes them party until they die. Like Slurms McKenzie.
Froemming: Not only does she pass out, Holly yells TIMBER!!!! as the woman falls, possibly snapping her neck in the process.
New York City truly is a cold, cold place to live.
So what happens next? Why Holly brings Paul to Sing Sing to visit Sally Tomato, her mafia friend. And that name is so stupid I had to check if that was a change in the movie or if it was in Truman Capote’s original novel. Capote is the culprit. I will never take his works seriously ever again.
Brown: At this point, I take the Deep Blue Something song more serious than this movie.
Following our visit to Sing Sing, this old man who is following Holly is confronted by Paul. Turns out, this older gentleman is named Doc and is Holly’s estranged husband. And they got married when Holly (then Lula Mae) was 14.
OK, fine, I’ll let that slide, post-WWII America.
It’s here where I figured out four things about this movie.
- I was convinced that Holly was a con artist who only wanted to steal the royalties from Paul’s books.
- Holly is pretty much Tara Reid’s character from “The Big Lebowski.”
- Paul is such a dopey loser to this cute Manic Pixie Dream Girl that he’s essentially Milhouse from “The Simpsons.”
- Every character in this movie talks like a damn “Alice in Wonderland” fever dream.
Anyway, Doc is there for Paul to be a friend and let Holly know he is in town, so as to not startle a woman who breaks into people’s apartments via fire escapes on a regular basis. Turns out her brother, Fred, is coming home from the army. Also, she has kids she has abandoned that Doc is now raising. I get she married real young and never had a chance to live life, but that’s just cruel. Also, she expects Doc to just take care of her brother for him.
Holly is what we call a manipulative and emotional abuser to the people in her life. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, she’s just an (REDACTED).
Brown: To use an old JOE-DOWN term we don’t use often enough: Holly Golightly is a garbage person. Also, she wears sunglasses inside bars with burlesque shows. And she is so mean to her racist caricature landlord that Jessica Jones thinks Holly need to tame her act.
Holly also states she’ll marry Rusty solely for his money while, in the same breath, throw shade at Paul for essentially being a woman’s gigolo.
And yet Paul follows her around like a sick puppy because she’s cute and charming. Dude, the woman is a sociopath.
Look, Froemming and I had a discussion about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. This movie didn’t invent it (for my money, that was “Bringing Up Baby” in the 1930s) but this movie popularized it. And I hate “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” forever for doing that.
Froemming: Yeah, she is truly a garbage person. And (REDACTED) this movie for making this a quirky thing to be.
To recap: Doc will not take care of Fred. Paul and Holly get wasted. She demands more booze after the bar because she has a drinking problem. She makes a scene. Rusty gets engaged to another woman and that somehow warrants the power headline in the newspaper. Everyone sucks in this movie.
Paul comes home one day and finds he has sold a story he has written, thus making him financially independent from Emily. It’s apparently before breakfast time, and he and Holly decide to celebrate by morning drinking and doing new things out on the town.
Hold on, I need this right now.
Brown: Their day on the town includes actually going to Tiffany & Co. and getting a Cracker Jack ring engraved and stealing something from a Five and Dime
where Byran Adams got his first real six-string. Then, they kiss afterwards. And I thought this was where their journey as Bonnie and Clyde began.
Paul and Holly spent the night together, but she ghosts him in the morning. Paul breaks it off with Emily because he loves Holly. Only, Holly is in the library reading up on Brazil because she wants to marry Jose for his money.
Look, I can appreciate her hustle. But, take it away again, Kayne.
Froemming: Later on, Holly and Jose show up at her apartment, where there is a note for her from Doc on the floor in front of her door. She reads it, and she starts destroying her apartment because her brother Fred died in a car accident on his base. She even throws her cat, named “Cat” at a wall, causing me to see red because I hate when people abuse their animals. At that point, I hoped she was going to off herself like Tommy Wiseau in “The Room.”
Nope, Paul gives Jose sage advice to help her (this was when I thought he was smart by seeing an out and taking it regarding this insane woman).
Brown: Can I say that Paul is at least a better man than I am? Because after Holly rejects him for Jose, months later he accepts a dinner invite from her and to go out and about New York City.
Now, if you dated me and turned down my advances, I will talk to you only if I have to, and I will be miserable the entire time. I’m going to actively avoid you. And yet, Paul still goes back to this woman. It’s not like she changed her mind or anything.
Now, when they get back to Holly’s apartment, the cops are there to arrest both Holly and Paul. This revolves around Holly’s relationship with Tomato and a drug ring.
Honestly, Froemming, if the movie did a weird turn here and it turned out Holly was like the Zodiac Killer or something, this movie is a 10, right?
Froemming: Oh yeah, because that would make more sense than Holly having no idea her “weather report” messages from the prison were code for drug trafficking. Her and Paul are arrested and she just hams it up for the photographers.
Paul calls OJ across the continent for advice on what to do with Holly. This is Exhibit A in why one should just not talk to exes, it’s nothing but trouble. OJ tells him to pack her stuff and hide her in a hotel until things blow over. OJ is not a very bright man.
Paul picks Holly up as she gets out of jail in a cab, with OJ’s terrible plan in play.
Brown: And while in the cab, Paul reads a telegram from Jose saying that he’s breaking off his relationship with Holly because of her arrest. She’s sad, but she’s determined to leave for Brazil.
Holly even asks Paul to use his writer connections at the New York Times to find the richest men in Brazil. Like, did we watch “Deadfall” again? Because I don’t see Nic Cage acting like a maniac amidst all these lame cons.
Paul, buddy, let her go to Brazil. She is not into you. I know from experience: you are wasting your time, your energy and your emotion. She let her (REDACTED) cat out into the rainy New York streets to become either feral or dead.
Froemming: I hated her even more when she tosses Cat out the door of the cab. Paul is even disgusted, though his views of owning women is creepy, and heads off to save Cat after he drops a guilt bomb on Holly.
Brown: Oh, it goes without saying that this movie has a lot of outdated thoughts on relationships and femininity. With how independent Holly is, I get why the character is so revered. But it doesn’t make her any less of a manipulative garbage person. Hell, she aided and abetted a mobster! She was about to become a fugitive because of her inability to balance a checkbook.
Froemming: This is a woman who keeps her shoes in the fridge. She is always drinking. She abuses her cat. I do not like this person at all.
Anyway, guilt consumes Holly and she runs off to find Paul and Cat, leaving this poor cab driver sitting in the middle of the street with a car full of this woman’s stuff. She finds Paul and she finds Cat and they kiss in the rain.
And these two will live miserably ever after. I feel sad for Cat in all of this.
Brown: Final thing I want to mention: the kissing in this movie is so awkward and not sensual. The final kiss of this movie is very tight-lipped, like they’re trying to avoid burping in the other’s mouth.
Froemming: Well, you did see how much they drank in this movie. That would be a real concern I think.
Brown: I give it a month, tops.
Let’s go to recommendations so I can catch my flight to Brazil.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Nope. Manic Pixie Dream Girls are grating and the choices these characters make are infinitely frustrating. Hepburn’s style is iconic in this movie but that’s not enough.
Froemming: If it wasn’t for Rooney’s racist character, I would say give it a shot. Hepburn does a good job of making an unlikable person likable, but wow, that landlord is just offensive. I say pass.