Holly Golightly is perhaps the most tragic, depressing character in all of literature and film, especially to those of us who know (or have known) people just like her. As an example to aspire to, Golightly fails miserably. She is internally and externally destructive, intentionally so. Truman Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the novella in which she was formed, has created in her a realistic portrait of people that fear happiness, and so imprison themselves to lives of restless and reckless abandon. She is just charming enough to make us pull for her, but equally cruel and uncaring once we’re suckered in. It’s hard to like Holly, and it’s almost impossible not to love her, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I’m sure it doesn’t. But neither does she, and so goes life.
On the other hand, the film version of Capote’s iconic work gets bogged down in insulting ethnic portrayals (Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi); studio sanitization (after all, Golightly is a call girl, but we get very little indication of that from the film); and a tacked-on happy ending that in no way fits with what’s come before it. Feel-good entertainment? Not when the audience knows better than to think things could turn out so neatly, so quickly. Still, Audrey Hepburn was a perfect choice for Golightly, and she heaps additional charm atop what was already on the page. George Peppard has very little to do as her does-she-love-him-does-she-not play-toy, but his final indictment of Holly is a stirring piece of writing, effectively delivered, that would have been a great place to end. It would have at least rung emotionally true. Unfortunately, the exchange is quickly swept under the rug by an ending that comes as close to Deus Ex Machina as one can get without actually achieving it.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is a pitch-perfect rendering, though not much goes on beyond strong colors and sharp contrast. The grains have been sifted out, and the look of the film is equal parts claustrophobic, apparent in the apartment set – and liberating, as seen on the streets of New York and the gorgeous interior of Tiffany’s. I am unsure of how this transfer compares to previous DVD releases of the film, but age marks are gone, and it appears Paramount has worked very hard to get things right.
While it may have been possible to strengthen the 5.1 surround track’s volume, the disc performs well, knowing when to soar and when to shut up. Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” is a terrific song, at its best when Mancini’s composition does all the work. Lyrics are good, but there is just something so transfixing and sad about that music, which directly speaks to the wandering soul of the film’s main character, and the heartbreak we should all feel over losing the woman that played her so early in her young life. English, French, and Spanish, monaural tracks are all adequate as well.
Producer Richard Shepherd’s Audio Commentary – It was a treat Paramount could include someone as closely involved with the production as producer Richard Shepherd on the disc’s commentary track. While I am not sure if this is just rehash from a previous release, I will say it’s well worth your time, as the book and film were not without controversy, and it’s fascinating to hear from one of those instrumental in the film’s success how these matters were handled, as well as existing regrets (see entry on offensive Asian character).
A Golightly Gathering – This 20-minute featurette reunites surviving cast members from Holly’s infamous cocktail party in a cocktail party of their own with some of the film’s fans and critics. It’s a creative way of presenting standard material, and sheds anecdotal light on the original scene’s filming and development.
Henry Mancini: More Than Music – Another 20-minute featurette, this remembrance of Henry Mancini touches on both his life and work, as alluded to in the title. I was worried this supplement would be a simple glaze-over of the inspiration and development behind “Moon River” for the film, but as it turns out, that’s only a small part. We instead get a deeper look than expected into the life of one of the 20th Century’s greatest film composers.
Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective – This 17-minute featurette gives Asian performers and activists a chance to take a few well-deserved shots at Rooney’s insulting Yellowface performance as bitchy comic relief Mr. Yunioshi. More than racial insensitivity, they should be angry that one man could give such a lousy, over-the-top performance and get away with it. I know I am. And just what was going through Edwards’ mind allowing Rooney to crap out this performance?
The Making of a Classic – A 16-minute featurette, this piece looks at the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s from option to development to finished product, all in broad strokes. A nice chunk of time is spent on Hepburn’s performance, with good reason, though I do wish we could have gotten more comparison-contrast information to Capote’s original novella. Or maybe I should just get off my lazy butt and do some actual reading?
It’s So Audrey: A Style Icon – Clocking in at only eight minutes, this featurette continues the salute to Hepburn by examining her beauty, from fashion to poise. Great for fans of this charming, bubbly performer…
Beyond the Gates: Studio Tour – Four minutes. This featurette gives a quick history and tour of modern Paramount facilities. It’s brief but fascinating, though it doesn’t have much to do with the film.
Brilliance in a Blue Box – This 6-minute featurette offers a brief history of the Tiffany’s jewelry store. Good for history/jewelry buffs…
Audrey’s Letter to Tiffany – A tad over two minutes, this examines a preface Audrey wrote for a commemorative book detailing Tiffany’s company history.
Rounding out the bonus materials are the original theatrical trailer, three photo galleries, and a fold-out full-color insert with additional text information and photographs.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a somber slice of life with enough joy and spirit to deserve its place in the public conscience. It deserves a finish more worthy of its foundation, and less pandering to the simplest of moviegoers. That isn’t to say you’re simple for liking it, however. Sure, it’s nice to see happy endings, but only when the characters want that for themselves. Holly Golightly clearly does not, but that’s exactly what she gets dragged into – kicking and screaming. Such isn’t life. But it’s a fine film nevertheless. Audio and video look and sound great, respectively. And the extras… oh, the extras! If you’re a fan, this one’s a no-brainer.