Sunday, March 05, 2006

Breakfast At Tiffany's and Romantic Comedies

I watched Breakfast At Tiffany's over the weekend, and was charmed by the kooky Holly Golightly - played with oddball grace by Audrey Hepburn. I wonder if there is any actress today that come close to embodying this state of grace and stylishness? Cate Blanchett? Yes, she played a queen and an elven queen - but will we, twenty years later, use Cate Blanchett as a byword and symbol for elegance?

Also, I was not prepared for the cynicism in Breakfast At Tiffany's. George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn play characters who are essentially selling their affections for cash. Holly Golightly wants to marry into money. She beams when she laid eyes on short and ugly Rusty Trawler ("He's the nineth richest man in American under the age of 50!" she declares to her friend Paul Varjak) She also charges men $50 for every trip to the pwoder room. (I never learn what was involved in the powder room. I presumed it's a code for sexual impropriety). And Paul Varjak (played by George Pappard) is a writer "sponsored" by a rich man's wife (Patricia Neal).

I expected a romantic comedy, and this being a movie shot in the 1960s, I expected an innocence. Surely we are the age that has more cause for material cynicism?

But no - this is a story by Truman Capote, and if you believe the movie, he was the tin man who never got his heart. Everyone in Breakfast At Tiffany's is caught up in money for affections and the best that could be said of Holly Golightly is that while she's a "phony", she's a "real phony." The love affair between Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak is the exception to the rest of the world. At the end, while it ends with "Moon River" in the soundtrack, and the quinessential kiss in the rain, it's doesn't sugar-coat love enough; it doesn't make you want to fall in love, or believe in love.

I don't recall many current romantic comedy that dares to say these things so upfront.

On a slightly different note, after the demise of the Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks partnership, we don't have many great on-screen couples anymore. Now, Kate and Leopold was beautiful because you could fall in love with Hugh Jackman; I would buy butter from that man - but I wasn't quite convinced a stud-muffin like Jackman would fall for Meg Ryan.

Who today, could fill the shoes of the king and queen of romantic comedies? Ashton Kutcher? I don't get him. I am uncharmed by him. Drew Barrymore was adorable in 50 First Dates, but one shouldn't hang around Adam Sandler too much if you want to be taken seriously. But I admit I loved Spanglish, and the ending was satisfying - even if Adam Sandler never got the girl.

We need to find our romantic stars again. Not just pretty boys and girls that look good, but actual adults that fall in love onscreen beautifully and sincerely, and make you forget - just for the length of the film at least - that love may not always be innocent and pure.

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