HoF: Holly Golightly
Not too much to say today, which is in stark contrast to last Monday. Thank you for all your kind words about my review of Let the Right One In. That review was the most fun (and easiest) to write so far. Sometimes a movie is just a movie (as you can see in my last commentary). However, sometimes it’s not and that little vampire movie was just that: more than your typical vampire flick.
So, it’s the last Wednesday of the month and we all know what that means: Hall of Fame time. The first inductee was the heroic Atticus Finch. Atticus was a no-brainer to me, but who to join him? It needed to be someone different. Then it dawned on me…
As Played By Audrey Hepburn
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
“No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?” – Holly Golightly
Ah, the famous image of Audrey Hepburn drinking coffee and eating a danish while window shopping at Tiffany’s after a long night of partying. And there’s the little black dress I referred to, something she wears frequently throughout the movie. It’s a look often imitated, but never duplicated. No one can pull it off quite like Audrey Hepburn. Unlike Atticus, I only recently discovered Holly. Raquel Welch hosted a night on Turner Classic Movies a few weeks back and the main event was Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I have to say it’s quickly become one of my favorites.
As iconic Hepburn is in the role, the amazing thing was that she was a mere afterthought. Holly was supposed to be played by Marilyn Monroe; even Truman Capote, author of the original novel, envisioned Marilyn in the part. This is something that made Hepburn quite self-conscious when Capote was on set, knowing that she wasn’t his first choice. However, Monroe’s “people” told her that playing a call girl wouldn’t be good for her image and Hepburn was eventually brought in. Monroe might have been good in the role (she is completely underrated, by the way), but it’s hard to imagine anyone but Hepburn playing the part. Despite this and its popularity, Hepburn always felt she was miscast as Holly.
When we first meet Holly, she likens herself to a “wild thing.” She has a nameless cat (see the picture above) which she feels she shouldn’t name because they are alike, “I’m like cat here, a no-name slob. We belong to nobody, and nobody belongs to us. We don’t even belong to each other.” Only when she finds a place like Tiffany’s, a place where she feels nothing bad can happen, will she settle down and finally name the cat. More on the cat later. She essentially works as a call girl (men give her money for her company at least) and she visits a crime boss in prison, who she unknowingly passes along orders to and from (“I meet him and give him the weather report”).
Early on, she meets up with her new neighbor Paul Varjak (George Peppard), who’s very much like Holly. In fact, this could be considered a double entry as this is as much Paul’s story as it is Holly’s. Paul is a writer and like Holly, he gets paid for his “companionship.” See, Paul met a wealthy married woman in Rome. In exchange for his *ahem* part of the affair, she puts him up in New York and gives him an allowance. Naturally, the two hit it off from the start.
Along the way, we find out many things about Holly: how impulsive she is, how she believes only money will provide happiness, how her name isn’t even Holly. This is what makes Holly so memorable. We all want to be the strong, heroic type (like Atticus), but I believe most of us have more in common with Holly than the lawyer from Alabama. All the confidence she shows is just an act. In reality, she’s a scared young woman. She runs away from anything that she perceives as tying her down. She runs away from the life she once knew; she flees a screen test in Hollywood and flies to New York instead; and she attempts to fly to Brazil after she and Paul fall in love. How many of us were like that (though perhaps not so extreme)? How many of us still are afraid to take that next step?
When Holly sings “Moon River” (watch here), it is our first glimpse to the real “Holly.” She just finished showering, she isn’t all made up. All the smart answers and party antics are gone; just a girl with a guitar singing about what she longs for. She wants that partner in which she can be “off to see the world” with. The song is about herself and Paul. I firmly believe she has fallen for him at this point (he, like the rest of us, definitely already has). It’s just a matter of if she will ever be truly brave enough to admit this or if she will continue on her goose chase in marrying a man for money.
In the end, it seems like she’ll never give in. She desperately tries to leave New York and Paul behind. In doing so, she kicks (not literally) the cat out of a cab into the pouring rain. This causes Paul to make his final stand. He has had enough of her games, tosses a ring into her lap (they have crackerjack prize engraved at one point) and goes off to find Cat. She finally joins him, seeking out her pet. Cat, obviously, is a metaphor for Holly. When she finally finds it, it’s as if she has found herself. She has found the courage to love Paul and the ability to “belong” to someone without feeling like she’s tied down. In a way, in finding cat, they’ve found each other.
This is a satisfying moment to audience. We root for the moment to happen, but she fights it so hard we aren’t sure it actually is going to happen. Okay, so we are sure it is, but it’s the fight that makes it so great. In Holly, we see ourselves. She isn’t perfect by any means; she’s human. If she can find love and find the courage to face life with someone, perhaps we can, too.
I’ll be back again Friday with another Top Ten entry. I believe I’m sticking with the topic I mentioned before. We’ll see.