By Lily Meek
6th October 2021

If there's one film I feel empowered enough to review or make comment on, it's 'The Princess Bride' - though 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' takes the cake for being a very close second, and has likely impacted my own way of thinking more. To stress this point, I have Holly Golightly pyjamas, furniture, a poster above my bed, and a tattoo to match. Now, you're wondering if this is second place, to what extent does my life emulate 'The Princess Bride'?

The greatest thing about this movie, for me, is its irony. One of the most quotable quotes from this film around the world is...

"The only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that'd make me feel like Tiffany's, then - then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name!"

The funny thing about this is that 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' is my Tiffany's! Nothing bad could ever happen to me while I watched this movie. We've spent some fine nights together, Miss Holly Golightly and myself - I've watched this movie with my mum, rain, hail or shine... inside and outside, painting, puzzling, and alone. Sometimes single and sometimes while dating, and when I've got the mean reds or the deep blues. It never ceases to give me a piece of mind or assuredness, and I think it offers that same reassurance to other viewers too... more on that later.


Before going any further - I'd like to address multiple elephants in the room here. Micky Rooney's depiction of Mr Yunioshi is horridly racist, unnecessary and you'll notice the character has nothing else to do with this review and does damage to the credibility of the film and message I attribute to it. Additionally, having also read the book, it is my opinion that the two entities of the story are completely separate, with two different purposes for society and as art forms. The book is fantastic, authentic, representative, progressive and free. A lot of its themes were too farfetched to be considered by the white patriarchal board body that headed Paramount at its time and I don't think this film can be compared as an "adaption" given the limitations placed on it by its creators.

A lot of what this movie is is due to Audrey Hepburn. Where this exists as the film's biggest strength, it also serves as its weakness. Many people were disappointed with the portrayal, being so starkly different to that of Novella 'Holly'. More so, the portrayal of her by such a classic woman is dangerous for the glamorisation when this narrative hits home. In that quintessential opening sequence, a lot of people view Ms Hepburn stepping out of that cab donned in pearls and a beehive - croissant in hand and a coffee in the other - as an attitude of sass, self-assuredness and blasé. The long-lasting nature of this film is for quite the opposite reason. This is a woman who seems like she has it all worked out - but really doesn't. Liked for an image she maintains, in an apartment hardly furnished but considered the New York style "perfect", with a cat that has no name. She's insecure, uncertain, and afraid that the notion of love only exists for the image of herself she lets the world see. She is scared of her own vulnerability, emotionally confused and honestly, just trying to get by in a world of money, sex and purpose. I would say this character boasts its longevity as a reflection of how many young women still feel this same way today. As 'Moon River' plays, and she steps out of that cab - the moment bares such cinematic strength for being able to reflect the importance to breathe and dwell in the place that gives you ease. And ironically, only viewers prone to that feeling, aware of their own insecurity and practice of seeking quiet, would be able to determine that.

Watching this as a teenage girl, like Holly at the beginning of the movie, I was allowed to breathe in this comfortable space, and was shown for the first time that sometimes the biggest expectations and the biggest fears are the ones we place on ourselves.

Holly Golightly is refreshing as a three-dimensional character who looks strong, quirky, fabulous and curious, but is quite self-destructive at the inability to maintain her facade. Her journey in the book is very different, and while I appreciate that at the end of that particular plot she has no need for a romantic tie-in, there is also something backwardly feminist about the end of Holly Golightly's film journey. It's the 1950s, Hollywood drops a rom-com, and who expects Holly to yell at her counterpart that she doesn't want to be in a cage for loving a man. Attempting to match her ferocity and unperturbed by her sexual freedoms, performative dress, attitude, loaded past, he responds...

"You're terrified somebody's gonna stick you in a cage. Well, baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself."

This scene always gives me goosebumps for the questions it makes me ask about myself - about my own fears, why I am running away from them, and who created them? It used to make me question why I never wanted to be in love, terrified that I would have to lose myself for it, if I knew what myself was? Holly really laid it out for me - had me thinking...

"Yeah, how can I even trust someone to love me, when I haven't even worked out if I like avocado yet? Or what I want to do? Or if I want to dye my hair?"

She articulates the confused state of trusting someone to love the parts of you that you haven't even learnt about yet - or might not even love yourself.

This film holds complexity. For the fact that it isn't just about boy chasing girl - it's about girl facing up to her own self. Heck! She even goes to find the cat before kissing the guy at the end (sorry, spoiler)! It's about relationships and belonging, not necessarily love and romance. She finds the trust to work at authentic relationships, to know it's okay to be let down, disliked or judged. That the importance of finding love, relationships, acceptance and friendship within yourself and by others outweighs the anxiety keeping people out and betting on Tiffany's - your safe place - always being there for you. It's a great narrative on freedom, fear and insecurity presented as confidence. As tone-deaf in its representation of some themes within the novella, I love that the film shows perfectionism flawed in the maintenance of image. Watching this as a teenage girl, like Holly at the beginning of the movie, I was allowed to breathe in this comfortable space, and was shown for the first time that sometimes the biggest expectations and the biggest fears are the ones we place on ourselves. To trust is to step out of the cage, and how very refreshing to relate to that.

So, 60 years on, thank you 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' for your constant reminder to stay true and confident to the character that is me... and thank you for being my real-life place that'd make me feel like Tiffany's.

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