Having never seen an Audrey Hepburn film before, the only image of her I have in my head is, of course, the sleek black dress, the ornate pearl necklace, and the dark sunglasses from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve always associated this photo with Hepburn’s status as a style icon, as opposed to the film it spawned from. Finally seeing the movie that helped make her a legend was actually an interesting and surprisingly enjoyable experience.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s definitely brought out the girl in me. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, with her nonchalance and breezy way of talking. Who cares that she’s kind of a prostitute and only associates with the wealthiest of New York socialites? I have respect for a woman who does what it takes to get what she wants, even if her methods aren’t exactly ethical. I was also seduced by the fashion. I’m a big fan of 60’s fashion, so I was in heaven watching the women of the film dressed in elegant gowns and form-fitting dresses, with their hair in chic up-dos. If I had a chance to go back in time to any era I wanted for a shopping spree, it would be the 60’s.
Then, of course, there’s the infamous Mr. Yunioshi, played by a completely unrecognizable Mickey Rooney. As soon as his character stumbled his way on screen, my mouth gaped. At first, I had no idea it was Mickey Rooney. I thought it was just a really bad Asian actor. Then I discovered from the ever-faithful Wikipedia that it was Mickey Rooney with a prosthetic mouthpiece and “yellowface” makeup. No one ever really commented on the offensiveness of this portrayal until the 1990’s, which sort of shocks me. Mr. Yunioshi was not meant to be an ironic, self-deprecating character – it was simply racist. A more recent example of this might be Robert Downey, Jr. as a white actor playing a black character in 2008’s Tropic Thunder, although the ridiculousness of this casting choice is commented on throughout the film. Mr. Yunioshia, however, is just a white actor doing an over-the-top and insulting impression of an Asian man.
Despite Mr. Yunioshi, I was pleasantly surprised by Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was edgier and sexier than I had expected and lived up to the kind of story I would expect from Truman Capote. It was more than a silly romantic comedy, thankfully. It transported me to another time and made me fantasize about a fabulous life filled with fashion, booze, cigarettes, and fancy New York parties. It’s no wonder to me now why Audrey Hepburn is one of the most famous actresses of all time and why the image of her graceful looks and elegant style lives on.
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