Judging a movie that was made 60 years ago

What a cringy movie!

Oddly enough, I had never seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s—neither when it was first shown in 1961 nor subsequently on TV or DVD. But now I have.

So here’s the problem. In the throes of cancel culture, we find too many people judging yesterday’s writers and filmmakers by today’s standards or by a single mistake. In general I can’t stand that attitude; I agree with John McWhorter that works of art should be judged by the quality of the art, not by the (real or imagined) transgressions of the artist. Nevertheless, as I said in my opening sentence above, I found this movie very hard to watch, classic though it may be. The #1 reason, of course, is the yellowface portrayal by Mickey Rooney. How could Blake Edwards have thought that that was acceptable, even back in 1961, which was culturally still mired in the fifties?

There were at least three other issues that kept me from enjoying the film. The #2 reason was simply that romcoms just don’t resonate with me, even though I can think of a handful that I have more-or-less liked. In this case I found none of the characters redeemable, except for the cat—and Holly’s unforgivable treatment of him was, basically, unforgivable. So that’s reason #3. And reason #4 is just an odd quirk of mine: I cringed at the repeated pronunciation of Jose as if it were Spanish, even though there’s a prolonged scene in which Holly is learning Portuguese because she thinks she is going to Brazil! Everyone knows (well, everyone who lives in or near a Portuguese-speaking neighborhood) that the Portuguese J is pronounced as in French, not as in Spanish!

Categories: Life, Movies & (occasionally) TV