Okay, so if Truman Capote’s original story Breakfast at Tiffany’s had a soundtrack, it probably wouldn’t have been Henri Mancini’s vacuum-packed elevator hit “Moon River” but an irreverent, uptempo version of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” preferably pounded out on a piano by Nina Simone. And, sure, Capote’s original choice for Holly Golightly was Marilyn Monroe, even if a more appropriate choice would’ve been something along the lines of The Pajama Game‘s pompadour-sporting Doris Day by way of Melina Mercouri. (To say nothing of the immortal Warhol superstar who likely got her name from Capote’s fictional character: Holly Goodlawn.) So every last hint of pansexuality appears to have been tucked away by scripter George Axelrod into the mottled fur of Holly’s gender-neutral “Cat.” So what? Blake Edwards’s discontent-but-charmed portrait of a long-lost New York state of blithe is, like most Blake Edwards films, narratively scattershot but reliably fixated on the cinematic chemistry of social relations in a mod (and post-mod) era, which invariably boil down to genders and the extent to which individuals ascribe to their assigned sex roles. As Holly, Audrey Hepburn has about as much edge as a Tiffany diamond replica made of tapioca, and her nondescript accent (product of a cross-European upbringing) couldn’t hail a cab to save her life, but what better way to foreshadow her character’s incredibly mundane past as a fugitive from the land of Hee-Haw Honeys? On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mickey Rooney’s “chink” stereotype as Holly’s long-suffering, buck-toothed upstairs neighbor is indefensibly foul, but at the same time it buttresses Edwards’s milieu, which is practically a first-person account from Holly’s point of view: c’est chic cosmopolitanism as fantasized about late-night by middle-American pageant bait. I bet you thought I’d go from unpacking Hepburn’s ying to examining George Peppard’s ying-a-ling. But, as Capote’s alter ego, Peppard’s portrayal of Paul Varjak (part-time writer and full-time kept man) is the film’s real wash, almost as neutered as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote. Then again, what more could a transplanted country girl living her big city “Moon River” daydreams hope for than a desexualized version of her strapping hunk of a brother?
- Blake Edwards
- George Axelrod
- Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam, José Luis de Villalonga, John McGiver, Alan Reed, Dorothy Whitney, Mickey Rooney
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