A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Breakfast at Tiffany's is a 1960s romantic comedy about a paid "party girl" who falls in love with a writer supported by a wealthy society woman in return for an intimate romantic relationship. There is no actual sexual activity other than kissing or cuddling, and no nudity (except for a sequence in which a stripper starts to undress and reveals her back). People smoke continuously -- Holly Golightly's cigarette holder is a character trademark. Drinking and drunkenness figure prominently in multiple scenes. In one intensely emotional scene, Holly destroys everything in her apartment; in another she forces her cat onto the streets alone. In a throwback to mid-20th century sensibilities, a Caucasian actor portrays an Asian as an offensive stereotype.
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What's the story?
In BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, Paul Varjack (George Peppard), a writer who is being supported by a wealthy woman (Patricia Neal), is intrigued by his upstairs neighbor, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn). Holly is an enchanting combination of breathtaking elegance, glossy Manhattan sophistication, and an engaging willingness to confide in Paul because she says he reminds her of her brother Fred. Still, she doesn't really tell him anything about herself, except that she likes to go to Tiffany's when she has "the mean reds" and needs to be surrounded by something comforting. Along comes a stranger who reveals a secret from Holly's past -- he was once Holly's husband, and he took care of Holly and Fred when their parents died and married her when she was 15. He has come to take her back home to rural Texas. But she tells him that she is a "wild thing" and cannot be kept in a cage, and sends him home alone.
Is it any good?
The things Holly says might sound tawdry from most people, but Audrey Hepburn manages to make it seem as though she found it all a delicious adventure. She tries hard to protect herself from her feelings, categorizing all the men she considers possible partners for her as "rats and super rats," planning to marry a man she does not love, refusing to give Cat a real name, trying to create a world for herself that is a perpetual Tiffany's, where "nothing bad could happen to you." She does give way entirely when Fred is killed in an outpouring of real emotion that scares away the man she is cultivating.
Paul sees this because it parallels his own experience. He once cared about writing, but as the movie opens, he's given up any notion of personal or artistic integrity to allow himself to be kept by a wealthy woman. His relationship with her is his way of protecting himself from taking the risk of feeling deeply, as an artist or as a man. Paul and Holly understand each other, and that understanding makes them ashamed of the hypocrisy of their lives. Holly describes "the mean reds" as "suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of." Everyone has this feeling from time to time, but it resonates particularly with teenagers, who are experiencing more volatile and complex emotions than any they have known before, and who tend to conclude that since they are new to them, they have never been felt before. Breakfast at Tiffany's provides a good opportunity to talk about those feelings and strategies for handling them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about "the mean reds." Have you ever felt that way? Why does Tiffany's make Holly feel better when she feels that way in Breakfast at Tiffany's? What makes you feel better?
Why did Holly marry Doc? Why did she leave him? What makes Paul decide to break up with the woman he refers to as "2-E"? What did O.J. mean when he called Holly a "real phony?"
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