Boredom at Tiffany’s

One of the most recent aspects to feature in my life is LoveFilm, the mail-order film service that, for a monthly fee, lets you receive as many films as you can manage to watch and post back. Nicole and I have enjoyed educating each other about our film tastes over the months, with an eclectic mix of genres gracing the laptop screen.

Last night’s fair was Breakfast at Tiffany’s. An iconic film from the 1960s, I’d of course heard of it and knew all about Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of an extrovert New York socialite; and I was hoping for good things.

Sadly, though, it was one of the most boring films I think I have ever seen.

In a nutshell, it tells the story of the rocky romance between a vain, self-centred, narcissistic, egotistical, ditzy, irritating woman with zero personability or common sense and an inability to look after herself or treat animals well, and a man so breathtakingly boring, one-dimensional and characterless I willed the film to end as soon as he appeared. Both characters and actors went out of their way to make themselves a pair of thoroughly unattractive, unlikeable and unengaging leads.

For a brief, tantalising moment, the film gets interesting as the relationship develops and the couple start to discover more about each other through their wanderings through New York… but the plot lurches back from the precipice of watchability by throwing in a backstory whose lack of credibility is matched only by its lack of interestingness.

This film could have done so much more. It could have been a loving, visually-engaging snapshot of 1960s New York, a city famous for its glitz, glamour and iconic skyline; it could have been a classic American “will they? Won’t they?” romance. It could even have involved some bloody breakfast, for heaven’s sake. But no. We were left with a film that within about fifteen minutes made it lazily clear that nothing would happen, except for a soundtrack stuck on loop, a budget that seemingly precluded much in the way of potentially interesting outdoor shoots, and some mild racism. Without doubt the best actor was the cat.

As a test of my endurance, I forced myself to watch to the end, only so I could quite categorically say that it was one of the dullest and disappointing films I have ever seen, which failed to live up to its hype even more than Schindler’s List (there’s a controversial view from me for another day).

Anyone willing to defend this film is more than welcome to challenge my view. I’d be genuinely interested in trying to understand its appeal.

4 thoughts on “Boredom at Tiffany’s

  1. OK, I’ll can’t resist the challenge to talk about a great film!

    The movie as a whole is as much about what isn’t said as what is. How has Holly Golightly ended up where she is now? When she talks about getting money from men for going out with them, she is an aspiring socialite and party-girl looking for a wealthy sugar daddy. But she is never able to put down roots – even to the extent of not giving ‘cat’ a name because it doesn’t belong to her.

    So who is she? We only really find out once her husband turns up to tell her the Fred her brother is dead. Holly is a ‘simple’ country girl, somewhat immature, emotionally abused, and now, a prostitute – sleeping with men for money and favours. Actually the prostitute part is much more blatant in the original book, and I had watched it several times without seeing it that way, but once you think of it that way it is unavoidable.

    Meanwhile, who is Paul? An aspiring writer with writers-block, a kept-man of a wealthy older woman (a male prostitute). So when they meet, when Paul moves into the apartment above Holly, they are the only ones to understand each other. Their relationship is purely platonic, she seeks comfort from him without giving herself to him. They are both lonely, they are both kept people, they have a unique understanding of each other’s situation and the isolation it brings.

    So, when you said Holly Golightly is “vain, self-centred, narcissistic, egotistical, ditzy, irritating woman with zero personability or common sense and an inability to look after herself or treat animals well” I would agree but re-word it by saying that she has to rely on her looks and people wanting to be like her or be with her as it is the only thing she has ever known and in particular the only love/acceptance she has ever experienced. She is an uneducated girl from a simple background where the only thing she was ‘taught’ was how to please her husband. The only other type of relationship she has ever experienced was with her brother Fred – which is another reason she calls Paul ‘Fred’ as she seeks a platonic and accepting relationship rather than one which uses her.

    The famous closing scene is where Holly finally is faced with not being able to escape her past or the truth of who she is. Paul tells her “No matter where you go, you just keep running into yourself.” She IS lonely and unhappy, and by going back in search of the cat that she just set free (to avoid “owning” him) she is really going back for herself.

    The only bad thing in this movie is the utterly dreadful and unnecessary Mickey Rooney portrayal of the landlord Mr. Yunioshi. Lastly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s can’t be discussed without mentioning Moon River, which sums up the mood running through the entire film.

    — BTW I’m lacking a lot of sleep as I write this so I may well be making no sense at all. So, to sum up… this is a great film and you are wrong wrong wrong!

    Hope that helps 🙂

  2. Thanks for taking up the challenge, Graham!

    I think your synopsis of what happened – particularly Holly’s back story – is a bit more helpful and less flippant than mine.

    However, that doesn’t change my view that it is still an uninteresting story, done really badly. The relationship with her brother or her husband aren’t really painted very vividly, and we don’t get much of an emotional attachment of her.

    Sure, she’s had a rough upbringing, but it is explored so minimally that you can’t help giving only a passing interest. And her sheer unlikeability makes it hard to feel sorry for her or cheer her on to success. Holly is no loveable Eliza Doolittle figure that we want to see do well; for me, she’s just someone it’s hard to take any interest in.

    Yes she’s lonely and unhappy – but I found little reason to wish her well, and found the fact that she kept going around in circles to be reason to want to ignore her more than anything else.

    The idea of someone acting as Holly does due to dark personal circumstances is sound; it’s just explored so superficially and brought to life (barely) by a dull character and terrible actress.

  3. I was wondering if you have read the book? It tells a slightly different story and one I found a little more interesting.

    However it is a novella, and the risk when turning a novella into a feature is always that it will feel like not enough plot or characterisation exist.

    I like the visual style of the film so enjoyed it when I saw it. However from a purely visual standpoint I found some of the backstage photography of Audrey Hepburn in her “off duty” clothes on the set to be more interesting. The colours were more vibrant and the juxtaposition was more interesting.

    I’m not a big fan of films that offer more style than substance. So I can see your problems with this film. Though some would argue that the film has enough style to carry it off.

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