March 2nd, 2005

Tom Lehrer is Smug


Watched Breakfast at Tiffany's again for the first time in a long time. Again I was charmed by almost all of it, but angry by the end. Now I know the novel differs from the film, and I know changes had to be made to the story and the characters to make them sanitized for the early 1960s film standards, one of which seems to have required a happy ending shoehorned in, but...

...honestly, the film should end just after Holly boots the cat out of the taxi. The words "The End" should be superimposed over Audrey Hepburn's frightened and bewildered face after Paul makes his exit and gives his last speech about who she is and what she really does. The film should have the guts to say "Sorry, kiddo, movie's over, you just lost everyone dear to you, you got what you deserve." Maybe she gets a line in at the end, determinedly asking the driver to continue on to Idlewild so she can catch her flight out of the country just so we know that's what finally happens, but really. A 30-second redemption does not a satisfying ending make.

The cat scene, by the way, is a masterpiece of pathos. I don't know why it evokes such a level of emotion that the rest of the film is unable to accomplish (other than the Tiffany's salesman who kindly acquiesces to engrave a Cracker Jack prize) but it does. First, Blake Edwards got the most perfect take for the shot where Cat is given the heave-ho from the taxi into the rain. The cat is shooed slightly, and then he hops back into the cab, because that's the natural reaction. Cat goes "Hey, what gives? I'm supposed to be inside and warm and dry with you guys." So Audrey Hepburn more determinedly scoots him out into the street (she would later say it was the worst thing she ever had to do on film.) And then there's the World's Saddest Reaction Shot.

Poor Cat! Now Holly Golightly has gone too far, and I daresay she should get what she deserves, and that's to be alone and unhappy. For shame.

(Only I feel so sorry for Cat that if the film has to end with Holly jetting off, then I will invent an ending where Cat goes off on his own and meets up with, say, Abbie and Martha who have found a time machine and gone back to 1961, and they team up and have awesome adventures on a weekly basis. Anything to get the poor dear out of the rain!)

And while I don't have to like the ending, I will admit that I feel much more relieved about her eventual reunion with Cat than I do about her and Paul. Again, funny, that. There's more of an emotional chord felt between the audience and an animal than the leading man. But I don't think that was George Peppard's fault at all. I mean, the empathy is all for the poor, downtrodden feline -- we may have never been a devil-may-care socialite with identity problems, or a kept man, but we've all been the cat.