Project 3: Holly Golightly

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Sarah Barnitt

Point Me Towards Moon River: Why I idolize Holly Golightly

 When this assignment was revealed to us, I agonized over what character I wanted to portray.  Who could I realistically dress up as? Who could I write a 1000 word essay about? All I remember is thinking that I had to do someone whom I consider flawless. Therefore, the answer became all too clear: Holly Golightly. In case you don’t know, Holly is the protagonist in the classic movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She is a gorgeous, 1960s New York city socialite. She’s charming and flighty, always found bopping between soirée’s , coming home at dawn still looking as ladylike and refined as an ingénue on prom night.  Holly is an enigma, loved by all but understood by few. None of her friends know where she came from. Her apartment is barely furnished, she hasn’t named her cat despite her owning it for years, and she claims the only place where she feels real is Tiffany’s, the most beautiful jewelry store in the city. However, she is not just a paper doll, some puppet of perfection. She’s much more complex ; there is an incredibly venerable side to Holly that the audience only catches fleeting glimpses of. She is a woman who is scared of her past but also of oblivion. Someone who feels aimless and lonely, someone who desperately needs another person to cling to but fiercely resents belonging to anyone.  This side of Holly is shown most clearly in a scene in the film  when she is looking out a window, not dolled-up, strumming a guitar and singing “Moon River”- a heartbreakingly beautiful son about the never ending search for companionship. Without giving too much away, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the story of a young man named Paul who manages to get past holly’s sparkling exterior, the fortress she puts up to keep others from discovering her inner pain, loneliness, and need for steadfast companionship.

There are several reasons why I chose to portray Holly for this assignment. The first one is rather simple, perhaps even superficial- she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen on screen. Major woman-crush material. I see Audrey as the quintessence of grace, litheness, femininity, and  glamour. Every facet of her character is something I aspire to be- a delightful conversationalist, social butterfly, object of multiple affections, heartbreaker. Her style is iconic and one of my biggest fashion inspirations. I adore black dresses, cat-eye sunglasses, and pearls, and live by one of her most memorable lines in the film: “there are some things a girl can’t bear to hear until she has her lipstick on.” I value being put together and feminine; Nothing makes me happier than a great dress and cherry-stained lips. I’ve always seen myself as an old-soul, with regards to personal style and decorum. Old Hollywood glamour is my bread and butter. So much of this does not fit in the mold of the typical eighteen-year-old college student. Pearls and frat parties don’t exactly go hand in hand. I get stares whenever I attempt to rock the red lips in during my 10 AM Italian recitation. Portraying characters like Holly allows me to indulge my love for glamour and showcase my old soul in an acceptable setting.  I couldn’t pass up that opportunity, since they are so few-and-far-between in this day and age.  To put it in a plain and painfully stereotypical way, playing Holly gives me the rare opportunity to look and feel beautiful. Obviously adolescence is a time of insecurity, and I am no exception to this rule.  So much of what I think about myself comes from other’s perceptions of me. I don’t have intrinsic confidence in my appearance, but Holly does.  It’s deductive reasoning- I think Holly is beautiful. Therefore, if I dress myself up like Holly, I will look beautiful. I wanted to portray Holly at her most fabulous, partially so I could experience feeling like this gorgeous, glistening socialite myself, for however short a period I was wearing this costume. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to, for some fleeing, ephemeral moment of time, become the pop-culture object of my idolization.

Yes, Holly is my idea of perfection, and that includes her flaws. The other Holly. The “Moon River” Holly, who simultaneously fears commitment and abandonment, needs to be loved but is afraid to. I feel a very special connection to the song in particular- it is one of the small handful of tunes that can evoke an emotional reaction in me no matter what my previous mood is. It’s a not a complex: song, three chords and ten lines long:

Moon river, wider than a mile

I’m crossing you in style someday

                 You dream maker, you heartbreaker

                                         Wherever you’re going I’m going your way


Two drifters off to see the world

There’s such a lot of world to see

We’re after the same rainbows end

Waiting round the band

My huckleberry friend, moon river and me


I was first exposed to this song the first time I viewed the film, but didn’t experience it’s emotional gravity until I sang it with my select choir class and was exposed to the lyrics day in and day out. We’re after the same rainbow’s end. This song is about wanting to have someone whom you can depend on, see the world with. It is about needing companionship. No matter what front she tries to put up to the rest of the world, all that Holly wants is to be loved. She needs to find “Moon River”- let herself be helped and taken care of by another. She feels aimless, like a drifter, and wants to find her place. Her song is an expression of her yearning for love. Although, she is painfully scared of surrendering herself to another, and prefers to go about her life pretending that she doesn’t need anyone. This is a very complex mental conflict, and it is a complete contrast from her fabulous façade, and I feel this parallel in our personalities as well. Since coming to school, there have been times where I have felt this similar aimless, “drifting” feeling.  While I love my friends and life here, there have been times where I, too, wishing I could find my “moon river”- some person or place I could my anchor myself and revel in the security and comfort they/it provides me with. However, I’ve never been comfortable belonging to other people, the same fear that Holly has. Intimacy terrifies me. Now more than ever, I feel as though I can relate to this side of Holly that I hadn’t been able to before. As I experience my own emotional conflicts, I value her struggle in the film more than I previously had. However, Holly ultimately believes (as she says in the song), that she will find and cross moon river one day. In style, of course. I believe the same is true for myself, and I take comfort in Holly’s story, albeit fictional.

Now, finally, the photo itself. I wanted to position her in way that her identidy would be apparent. Her look is iconic- little black dress, pulled back hair, sparkly headband, pearl necklace, shiny earrings, long cigarette, long black gloves, cat-eyed sunglasses, and high-heeled shoes. They all either items I had in my class or I obtained from other students in the class. I stood far away from the camera, as if she were being photographed by society photographers/paparazzi.  I believe that the distance creates a barrier between Holly and whomever views the photograph- as she often creates barriers between her relationships in her life.  I wanted to give off Holly’s signature air of glamour, but also of aloofness. Hence, I turned away from the camera and stuck my cigarette towards the lens, as if I were using it to distract the camera from looking at me. I also chose to have the sunglasses ALMOST, concealing my face, but not completely.  I chose to have a tiny portion of my eyes peeking above their rims. That is what intriguing about Holly-she hides enough of herself to remain a mystery, but the bit of her that comes through is enough to utterly enthrall anyone around her.  She lets a sliver of her true identity out, but just enough to keep everyone guessing. What slips through the cracks is what makes her just one degree away from perfection.


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