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BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S
Centennial Collection

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney
Director:  Blake Edwards
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  114 Minutes
Release Date:  January 13, 2009

"Quelle night!"

Film **1/2

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a curiously uneven film, composed mostly of unexplored scenarios and underdeveloped characters.  It’s a movie that rests squarely on the buoyancy of Audrey Hepburn’s performance, and for that reason alone, almost succeeds.

Though some theatrical purists may always consider Eliza Doolittle to have really been Julie Andrews’ role, none can dispute that Ms. Hepburn and Holly Golightly are inseparable as actress and character.  Holly is unbottled bubbly delight, as she shines from the screen with warmth, humor, and disarming candor.  The fact that she may be harboring a secret from her past is only incidental…we are charmed by the Holly of the here and now.

We see her largely through the eyes of Paul (Peppard), a writer and new neighbor who continually crosses paths with her.  It’s not hard to understand why he starts falling in love with her.

The romantic aspect of the picture floats with no problem.  Where the film doesn’t work is when it touches on certain dramatic aspects of the story so lightly that one is left wondering why they were even introduced.  Doc (Ebsen) shows up long enough to inform Paul that he’s her husband, and she had abandoned him and her children some time back, along with her real name of Lula Mae.  Then Doc is gone, and all but forgotten.  Maybe I should have taken that storyline more lightly, but when watching the film, it seemed like quite a blow, and a scenario with some definite dramatic possibilities.

Another lifeless aspect is Paul’s relationship as a kept man to a wealthy woman (Neal).  She breezes in and out without giving the audience the satisfaction of getting a feel for the dynamics of their relationship.  Then, when Paul finally confesses his heart is elsewhere, nothing happens.  No emotion, no complexities, no obstacles to overcome.  Neal’s character simply goes away.

Finally, though this may be because of the era in which the film came out, the movie only hints at what Holly does for a living.  Prostitution is suggested, of course, but given that the script only lightly touches on it here and there, and with an oh-so-innocent aura, this aspect of the film remains another that might have brought more to the table than what it does.

As mentioned, the best thing the movie has going in its favor is Ms. Hepburn, and that’s no small factor.  She always brings to her characters a sweet, warm charm and grace to win audience’s hearts.  I don’t think she’s ever failed to do so, and she certainly doesn’t here.  Peppard is fine, given that his character is rather flatly drawn.  And I always enjoy seeing Mickey Rooney on screen, though his character of the Japanese landlord is little more than a crude racial stereotype.  And credit must be given to the terrific score by Henry Mancini, and the classic tune penned by him and Johnny Mercer, “Moon River”.

So Breakfast at Tiffany’s definitely has some favorable aspects, but overall, it seems to have fallen a bit short from the film it could have been, though it’s probable the filmmakers didn’t aspire for it to be any more than what it actually is…a lightweight romantic romp with an appealing star.

Video ***

This is a mostly good anamorphic transfer from Paramount, with gnerally sharp images, good detail, and only mild noticeable grain here and there.  The high definition remastering is a plus.  Colors are generally good, though not always natural in appearance—a typical side effect of Technicolor.  Flesh tones are usually where this is most noticeable. 

Audio **1/2

The 5.1 soundtrack is serviceable, but mostly comes to life when Mancini’s beautiful music fills your speakers.  Otherwise, it's not a mix designed to send much in the way of discreet signals to your rear stage or .1 channel.

Features ***1/2

This Centennial Collection re-release boasts some decent extras, including a commentary track by producer Richard Shepherd.  There is also a trailer, galleries, and some featurettes:  "Making of a Classic", "It's So Audrey", "Brilliance in a Blue Box", "A Golightly Gathering" and "Audrey's Letter to Tiffany".  New extras include the Asian perspective on the somewhat insensitive portrayal of a Japanese character and a look at the legendary Henry Mancini, plus a brief look back behind the gates of Paramount.

Summary:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a charming little diversion—a film that instinctively trusted that its star could carry it through.  With Audrey Hepburn’s winning on screen ways, the movie succeeds in reaching the somewhat low expectations set for itself, but still, after this Breakfast, I was left hungry for something a little more substantial.

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