Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Time for another review, my huckleberry friends. I haven't meant to be so sporadic, but life happens sometimes. So here's another classic with an elephant to address. I mentioned in Roman Holiday that Audrey Hepburn eventually developed a modus operandi of playing prototypes of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl while always looking impossibly chic in some huge city. However, she always manages to subvert the type because the man in the story is in equal billing with her. Yes, she affects them with her winsome charm and changes their lives, but only because they have changed hers in some way. Just another trope they did better back in the day. Here, Paul Varjack is ostensibly the focus of the story, but he just fades into the background besides the much more vital Holly. He helps her less than she helps him, but that's because he isn't much of a character. I'm sure Truman Capote meant for him to be, but he comes across as just rather bland mixed with eerily possessive. If you were wondering when I was going to get to Mr. Yunioshi, well, wonder no more. He does spoil an otherwise charming film with his buckteeth, cokebottle glasses, and MISH GORIGHRY!! But it's still a movie worth watching. I've heard it argued that by watching movies that include horrible stereotypes, we perpetuate those stereotypes. I think that's only the case if the viewer does not recognize the stereotype. I didn't really need an intro on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection telling me some of the gags were racist – I knew that already. But most people don't seem to realize Forrest Gump is ableist. Maybe it's the prevalence of awareness of stereotypes. Most people can recognize racism and sexism, most can't recognize ableism unless they have someone directly in their lives making them recognize it. I don't think Breakfast at Tiffany's needs a disclaimer at the beginning to say “Hey, all, in the early 60's we still had some very negative feelings about the Japanese, and that led us to some really ugly things in movies”. Though I guess there's some part of my going “Well... even if they weren't using actual Asian actors for most of those roles, at least there were Asian characters on the screen”. It's a weird thing – is it more offensive to use offensive stereotypes, or is it more offensive that Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu (at least 10 years ago, haven't heard from her lately), and whoever is playing Mr. Sulu in whichever film are apparently the only East Asians alive in Hollywood? Is the choice bad representation or no representation? This does create some dissonance when you're watching the movie. Actually, there are a lot of those jarring moments, like Buddy Ebsen having married a 13-year-old “going on 14”. Or the way Holly's attempts at gold-digging go amiss because she is too emotional to be a gold-digger. Truman Capote apparently desperately wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role, but while she had a very underrated capacity for playing wounded innocence, she had also played gold-diggers with the sense to actually dig. I don't think it would have worked quite the same. I wouldn't say skip this one. I do enjoy it, but it's one of those movies that I see as more iconic than good. Audrey Hepburn and Cat carry the whole thing, and when they aren't on screen, the film lags. But when Audrey and/or Cat is on screen, suddenly, it seems like a sparkling picture. It's odd that way.

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