C.Neil Davenport | Breakfast at Tiffany’s
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Jan 04 2017

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Neil Davenport

In cinema almost all the best dramatic scenes occur within the backseat of a New York taxicab including Blake Edward’s, 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, climax where the theme of a caged love is discussed. In this scene Paul, played by George Peppard tells Holly, played by Audrey Hepburn that he has fallen in love with her and because of his love (inferring the idea of soul mating) she belongs to him. Holly’s immediate response spits back at Paul telling him humans do not belong to humans and she cannot be put into a cage. Paul punches back making the remark he does not want to suppress her in a cage, but only love her and do nothing more. Holly’s last words ring, “same thing.” This does two things. First it tells us where her head is at and second, the theme is about how real love is never subversive. So in order to understand how the theme is portrayed we must figure out what type of film this is.

The logline on IMDB for Edward’s film says that Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) it is about “a young New York socialite [who] becomes interested in a young man who has moved into her apartment building.” This logline is terrible. It hardly gives us a glimpse of the story. Please be careful when reading small sentences about movies. Sometimes they do not do justice to what the film is actually about. I am no professional writer (yet), but my logline would read, “An elegant seductress on the hunt to marry the richest man alive finds that she is developing affections for a penniless writer and does everything she can do to keep their relationship friendly.” This needs a professional’s touch, but at least it gives a bit more oomph to the irony within the story. Now that we understand what the story is about let’s trudge into the genre. The genre is simply an artistic composition in which the story is told and this film is a Buddy Love Rom-com.

Down to its frame, a Buddy Love story is about an incomplete individual who is fixed by a special buddy. In this case, Holly is the incomplete individual or otherwise known as our protagonist (who the story is about) and the special buddy that helps fix her is Paul.

So now we have to ask ourselves, ‘why is The Brando questioning The Group?’ or in this case, ‘why is Billy questioning the police department?’ At first the police department in Billy’s perspective was moral and sensible, until he sat across Costello during lunch and saw him twist a wedding ring off of a severed hand as Costello ate a lobster. This was the moment Billy realized if Costello found out he was an undercover cop, he would surely die. After this scene, Billy yanks off his wire, throws it in the pool and starts questioning his loyalty to his occupation. His primal desire is survival and wants nothing but to leave the group he works for!

Now as why Paul is Holly’s buddy and why Holly needs fixing will be noted later in another paragraph, but first we need to take a moment and break down the elements of what makes a Buddy Love story so unique.

According to Blake Snyder’s novel Save the Cat, there are three elements that arrange a Buddy Love story. First there must be an incomplete protagonist who’s missing something physical, ethical or spiritual and needs it to be whole again. Second, there is an odd catalyst character that is bizarre and does not change but causes change within others and thirdly, there is an established problem between the two characters. It is either a geographic distance, personal misunderstand, an ethical view point, an epic historical event or a disapproval of society that is actually keeping the two characters together.

The first element is an incomplete individual who is typically our protagonist. Holly is our protagonist not only due the introduction of her at the beginning of the film, but because of her elongated character growth. Paul grows as well by becoming emotionally independent from his interior decorator that has the occasional tussle under the covers with him, but his change happens quickly within one scene in contrast to Holly where she takes the entire film to change. Time is a relevant tool in seeing where attention of transformation should be placed and the longer one takes, the clearer story will be. The incompleteness Mr. Snyder speaks of is what our protagonist is missing in order to be happy. Holly lacks the understanding of love and interprets it to be suppressive. In being in the habit of seducing rich men and adopting a life style that is not her own, Holly is missing the spiritual entity of self-acceptance and only though Paul is she able to realize that she has unknowingly suppressed herself by running away from her own identity.

The second element is the odd catalyst character that is bizarre and doesn’t change but causes change within others. Even though he does change minimally and is not bizarre acting, Paul is the catalyst. Paul is who we all want to be. He is devilishly handsome, courageously confident and because he knows what he abruptly wants he is not afraid to cause change in order to obtain it. He has all of these self-desired traits Holly silently wishes she had because they are subliminally exactly what she needs in order to be happy again. However, it is very difficult for the catalyst character to convince the protagonist she needs to change because of the final element.

The final element is The Problem. It keeps the couple separated which innately keeps them together at the same time. The Problem keeping Holly from falling in Paul’s arms is her personal misunderstand of love. She reads it as suppression. Take the scene where Holly’s past husband shows up planning on taking her away from New York. Later in the scene Holly tells Paul at the bus station that she needs his help in convincing her past husband, Doc Golightly (Buddy Ebsen) to leave her alone. After Paul is dismissed by Doc, Holly faces him and tells Doc that she is no longer his to have. She continues to say, “You can’t keep a wild thing forever, Doc. Once you’ve nursed it and cared for it, you have to put it back in the wild where it belongs.” Obviously referring herself, Doc understands and gets on the bus without her. She treats Paul the same way in towards the end of the film in the taxicab.

Although when Paul tosses the cracker-jack engraved ring at her and says, “I am done,” Holly snaps out of her disillusionment probably because she has never experienced a man walk away. All the others push and pursue which causes her to flee, but in the end the roles swap to where Holly finds herself running in the rain after the only one who quit. Holly takes upon the effort of accepting herself with Paul by her side because he is the only man who sees her for who she truly is. The theme of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) says, “I don’t want to put you in a cage. I want to love you and that’s it!” So have you ever loved someone with just the intention of loving them?


Other films that present the same theme are When Harry met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Failure to Launch.


IMDB – Breakfast at Tiffany’s


Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.

Blake Snyder – M. Wiese Productions – 2005.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Dir. Blake Edwards. Prod. Paramount Pictures. By George Axelrod. Perf. George Peppard, Audrey Hepburn.



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