Friday, June 6, 2014

Running into Myself

I'm going to be very honest and start out by saying that I never cared for Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). Frankly, it intimidated me. A film with so much history wrapped up in it is a hard thing to tackle. Preconceived ideas are almost impossible to set aside when the entirety of feminine culture has been effected by the legend of Holly Golightly. Even my generation 40+ years later feels the ripple effect. The little black dress, the pearls, the name Tiffany's still translates as the epitome of class. And while it's true that Holly is a breathtaking character... she is anything but a role model.

The first time I watched this movie, I was still in high school... and not only did I not like it, I don't even think I finished it. I was going through my Audrey phase, watching anything and everything I could get my hands on, driving the poor video rental store owners crazy. Tiffany's was last in a long succession of Hepburn films and if you've ever sat and watched this movie, you know how different it is from the rest of her body of work. 

A very brief synopsis: A writer, Paul Varjak, (who is sleeping with a married woman for money) moves into an apartment above an odd New York socialite, Holly Golightly  (who is using men for money). These two emotionally crippled people slowly fall in love.

Audrey Hepburn does generate a certain kind of magic in her portrayal. Holly is probably one of the most relate-able female characters to have ever graced the big screen. It has nothing to do with her impeccable fashion sense, her socialite hobbies or her habit of eating breakfast while staring into a window at Tiffany's... but because she is a woman deeply jaded and heart broken. She becomes a mirror and all of our insecurities are suddenly displayed in Technicolor. That's what has always scared me... and something I couldn't grasp as a teenager. I hadn't lived enough yet to know what it means to build a cage around your heart. 

Paul: You know what's wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You're chicken, you've got no guts. You're afraid to stick out your chin and say, "Okay, life's a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that's the only chance anybody's got for real happiness." You call yourself a free spirit, a "wild thing," and you're terrified somebody's gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it's not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It's wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.
I finished the film the second time I watched it. I was about to be finished with college and had suffered a major emotional blow. I didn't like it this time either. I resented Paul and Holly's relationship. I had opened myself up to love and been burned for it... It seemed to me that Holly's method of survival didn't seem so bad. You do what you have to to live. In my opinion, this movie had it all wrong... Who was this gigolo to tell me that guarding my heart was such a bad thing? 

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
Paul Varjak: Sure.
Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that'd make me feel like Tiffany's, then - then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name! 
I've seen this movie a few times since then... and while it isn't one of my favorite Audrey films, I have discovered a deep affection for Holly... because I feel like her some days. It's a fear that every girl has hiding within her heart... those mean reds. Its the panic that wakes you up at 3 am for no reason. The whispers when your trying to go to sleep reminding you of everything in your life you can't control. It's the small voice that plants seeds of doubt that you'll ever find the safety of another person. 

We find solace in our little black dresses and our ability to look fabulous in spite our inner chaos. I love how Holly refuses to hear the bad news of a breakup letter until after she's applied her lipstick... because that's exactly how women approach impending heartache... with our shield (in this case a mask of makeup) securely in place. 

I think it's why after so many years, you still find Breakfast at Tiffany's posters on dorm room walls... because every girl can still find a small part of herself in Holly Golightly. For me, it's a reflection I don't always like being reminded of. I like my walls right where they are and I'm not done running yet. 

So here's to the mean reds and the Tiffany blues, the Givenchy dresses and every rich man under 50!

Future reading... If I can get my hands on them:

No comments:

Post a Comment