The Truman Show
Sometimes a piece of pop fluff is just that.
Aug 9, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 44 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
What makes Breakfast at Tiffany’s so remarkable, so delightful, and so worthy of repeated viewings even now, 50 years after its release, is its continually shifting tone. It moves from wild comedy (including the best party scene ever filmed) to rueful romance to pointed satire to family melodrama, cast against the backdrop of a wonderfully idealized New York of brownstones and nightclubs full of glamorous models and naïve millionaire industrialists.
The glue that holds Breakfast at Tiffany’s together is Holly Golightly—or rather, the magical way writer George Axelrod, director Blake Edwards, and Hepburn convert Capote’s sordid character, who was basically a hooker, into a classic cinematic dreamer. In the end, Holly is just a backwoods kid living a dreamy big-city life. “She’s a phony,” says her movie-agent friend O.J. Berman in one of the cinema’s most memorable lines. “But she’s a real phony, know what I mean?”
It took all of them working together —Edwards, Axelrod, and Hepburn —to get this right, and they didn’t even know that was what they needed to do. If any of them slipped, got it wrong, missed a beat, Holly’s intolerable qualities would have been revealed and the movie would have turned sour and discomfiting. Instead, their collaboration successfully turns the “real phony” into a madcap heroine. It’s a lie, and a pretty bald lie at that, and one Capote, who was no sentimentalist, didn’t tell in his book. But it’s the kind of lie at which Hollywood, at its best, excels. And it’s probably wisest not to look too closely at it. Certainly not over the course of 200-plus pages.
John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, is The Weekly Standard’s movie critic.