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Breakfast at Tiffany's (Paramount Centennial Collection) - comedy DVD review
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Actors: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam
Directors: Blake Edwards   Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 13 January 2009   Runtime: 114 minutes
(2 discs)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Audio (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English; Dolby Digital Mono - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), A Golightly Gathering, Henry Mancini: More Than Music, Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective, The Making of a Classic, It's So Audrey: A Style Icon, Behind the Gates: The Tour, Brilliance in a Blue Box, Audrey's Letter to Tiffany, Original theatrical trailer, Galleries (Production, The Movie, Publicity)

Breakfast at Tiffany's may be Audrey Hepburn's signature role. Her beauty and sense of style radiated from the screen. Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a self-made New York socialite; unemployed, at least conventionally, Holly hits all of the hot spots, getting men to buy her drinks and dinner. She floats through life, never even bothering to figure out a name for her cat. She chronically forgets her apartment key and so bothers her upstairs neighbor Mr. Yunioshi when she stumbles in at all hours. Holly is able to keep herself afloat by mooching off of others - in fact, she expects and receives $50 from her male companions when she visits the powder room (that must've been when they still had the coin-operated stalls).

George Peppard plays Paul Varjak, the new tenant in the building. He's tall, good-looking, and quickly makes friends with Ms. Golightly. Paul reminds Holly of her brother, so she mostly calls him Fred. Paul is a writer, but he hasn't written anything in quite a while. He's a kept man, and Patricia Neal plays 2-E, the woman who keeps him. She's married but has Paul as a boy-toy, kept in an apartment she paid for, decorated, and stocked with suits for him. Paul seems a bit embarrassed by his situation, but is Holly's all that dissimilar?

Holly's looking to find a rich husband. She's tried the poor kind before, we find, when Doc Golightly (Buddy Ebsen) shows up one day. Doc reveals that Holly was Lula Mae when they were married (she was fourteen when they wed). Doc wants Holly to come back home to Texas, but Holly can't do that. Paul helps her send Doc packing alone. Doc seems to understand that she's a free spirit who can't be kept when it doesn't suit her fancy.

Naturally Paul falls for Holly after a whirlwind day in New York in which they each try things they've never done before. They try shoplifting from a 5-and-10-cent store (which Paul's never done) and going to the library (which Holly's never), and they stop at Tiffany's to see what they can get for $10.

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a classic romance from the tail end of the golden age of Hollywood. I'd never seen it before, and I was pleased. Hepburn's style and appeal is amazing, and Peppard is appealing as a leading man. The big party in Holly's apartment is an amazing piece of work with Blake Edwards written all over it. There's so much going on there that you could see it several times and pick up new tidbits every time.

Quite striking, however, is the role of Mr. Yunioshi, played by Mickey Rooney. This character exists for comic relief, and Rooney is indeed excellent with the physical comedy. The way he bumbles across a room trying to get to the door is a work of wonder. What is disturbing is the stereotype buck-teeth and eye makeup used to make Rooney look Asian, and the speech patterns employed. In the Asian community it's known as Yellowface. In 1961, this was hardly noticed by non-Asian movie-goers, but now it's uncomfortably obvious today. It's the sort of thing reminiscent of disparaging portrayals of the Japanese in WWII-era cartoons.

In an included featurette, Asian activists and actors discuss the Yunioshi character and how they were affected by it. In another section, Blake Edwards and others involved with the making of the film expressed regret about the role. What I'd like to hear is an interview with Rooney about the role, though the Sacremento Bee recently reported that he said that he'd never heard a complaint. Mickey Rooney is a national treasure with a body of work to be reckoned with - he could have played the role without the yellowface and done a wonderful job. Like I said, he has a masterful time with the physical comedy bits.

Featurettes also on the special features disk include The Making of a Classic, Henry Mancini: More Than Music, A Golightly Gathering, It's So Audrey: A Style Icon, and more. Each featurette is well-made and enhances the enjoyment of this classic film.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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