Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Review Breakfast At Tiffany's

Breakfast At Tiffany's
by Truman Capote 
adapted by Richard Greenberg

My Fair Lady

According to the 1961 New York Times review of the Hollywood movie adaptation of Truman Capote's, Breakfast At Tiffany's written three years earlier, protagonist Holly Golightly is an "amoral pixie".

Well, we are not commenting on her moral virtue, of which we know naught. But maybe this throwaway newspaper phrase inspired the casting of chanteuse Pixie Lott in the role of Texas billbilly turned New York high society escort, or in Capote's own words an "American Geisha".

A bar room memory play, the older self of young would-be writer (Matt Barber), let's call him Fred like Holly, looks back to his arrival in New York, after the Pearl Harbor attack during the Second World War, where he rents a room in a sprawling Manhattan brownstone house..

Lodged amid a bevvy of eccentrics, he is alternately fascinated by and then almost jealous of his will- 'o-the-wisp mysterious young neighbour,.a mere fire escape climb away. 

Greenberg's somewhat heavy handed adaptation draws on Capote's novella first published in men's style magazine Esquire in 1958but hit the footlights in 2013 in a short-lived Broadway production.

Holiday (Holly) Golightly lives off "powder room" tips from men she escorts and payments for regular Sing Sing prison visits to and the passing on of messages from a mafia mobster. 

Living for the here and now, Miss Golightly develops her very own form of psychological myopia,  treading water in and floating with the cream of New York high society, while being entirely out of her depth. 

Despite the movie's liberties with the novella, it's Audrey Hepburn's exotic looks and fashion magazine embodiment of Holly, created by scriptwriter George Axelrod and costume designers Hubert de Givenchy and Edith Head, which dominates the public perception of Capote's story,

Even so, Capote apparently wrote the tale with Marilyn Monroe in mind and felt double crossed with the casting of the more elfin Miss Hepburn.

However sitting in the upper circle, the shifting scenery of the New York skyline and the skeletal brownstone building felt dwarfed by the huge Haymarket stage, although the experience may be different in the stalls. 

It's a serviceable rather than a fluent production, literal rather than a literary jewelled bauble of a play. For even if it were not a faithful adaptation, the film's strength was perhaps its own combination of an Esquire-like fantasy for the fashionable male with, yes, an American geisha.

Barber as Fred works hard as the narrator of this memory tale, explicitly gay here rather than the implication in the source material,  increasingly skipping around the stage like a springy young gazelle. 

But a delicate, fluid, chameleon piece of writing  on New York's human zoo becomes too Chandleresque. Whether it's the script or direction by Nikolai Foster, it's too straightforward and flatening a rendition to make the narrative and characters run out of  the callow young writer's control which we're guessing may have been the original intention.

Lott also works hard as the "real phoney", reinvented Pygamalion-style by a Hollywood agent (Sevan Stephan),  but apart from the singing, it feels like an arduous uphill task for her with a self-conscious accent with more than a tinge of  Zsa Zsa Gabor

Still, there is Robert Calvert as Doc Golightly, Texan horse doctor, Holly's soft-hearted benefactor who made our wild heroine his child bride. While Charlie De Melo makes a memorable smoothly plausible Brazilian politician playboy. 

And, last but not least, the impactful disciplined brief appearances, eliciting admiring noises from the audience for his professionalism, of Bob the cat as the "no-name slob", a feline of indeterminate sex. So,  it's the lower end of an amber light for  a perfectly respectable if uninspried version of  the meaningful cartoon that is Breakfast At Tiffany's.

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