6 Oct 2014

MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL - Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?  What about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character, does she have rules?

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) - Is the character study of a self-sabotaging party girl who hides her mess of insecurities behind an extrovert outer personae.

The trailer.


He loves it when a plan comes together.
1a.  POV Character - Actually starts with Holly.  It's four minutes before the main male character - Paul "Fred" Varjak) appears.  From then on it's mostly his POV but she gets some solo screen time.
The Bechdel Test:  She talks to Emily Eustace "2E" Failenson and Sally Tomato.  Mostly about men, though.  Fail.
The Mako Mori Test:  Although it is mostly about Paul, his story is pretty light and it is mostly her story.  Pass.
1b.  Unhappy – He hasn't quite got his life together but isn't unhappy.
i.  Job – A writer who isn't writing.
ii.  Relationship – A kept man.
iii.  Belongings – His stuff is mostly owned by the woman who owns him.
iv.  Bereavement – No bereavement.
v.  Life – Seems OK with life.
vi.  His life is partially together at the beginning.

RULE #2 - T &A

Just checking.
She spends much of the film scantly dressed (but well covered), wearing just a white dress shirt, wrapped in just a towel at a party and changes under clothes in a taxi.  When she visits his bedroom the first night, he also gets out of the bed naked, but once again, remains covered.  So no nudity.


They kiss.  Must be a Rom Com.
Breakfast at Tiffany's is a character study.  Because it ends with the characters getting together and it's got moments of comedy, it's often classified a romantic comedy, so, let's not break with tradition and look again at those rules and quickly apply them:
1.  Mostly balanced (see #1a above,)  They are opposites, she's an extrovert, he's the "sensitive bookish type."  However they both live off the opposite sex.  He's a published writer - that's almost media.  As noted, Paul is a kept man.  Holly has a husband she doesn't talk about.  Mostly Followed.
2. See #2 above, No nudity.  Followed.
3. He can't get into his apartment and gets her to buzz him in.  Vaguely Followed.
4. Her insecurities and desire for something more causes her to push him away.  Not followed.
5.  He eventually realises that he loves her.  She finally accepts that she can love someone.   Mostly Followed.
6. They don't really get together to break up.   Not applicable.
7. She decided to marry a Brazilian, and when that falls through she decides to use the ticket anyway.  Followed.
8. No real redemption just a complete change of underlying character traits.  Not applicable.
9. Happily ever after - see rule #10 below.  Followed.
10. No sequel - see #10 below.  Followed.
4a.  Full of energy - Calls herself a "wild thing" and "you mustn't love a wild thing."
4b.  Full of contradictions - O.J. Berman calls her a "real phony."
i.  Fun/Serious - Hides her anxieties behind a fun facade.
ii.  Sexual/Asexual - asks if she can get into bed with him.  It's all right, they're friends that's all.
iii.  Romantic/Not - After advancement, not love but falls in love anyway. iv.  Honest & Open/Hiding a Secret - Brash and open, talks a lot about herself.
v.  Smart/ditzy - Feigns ditziness.
4c.  Carefree - Refuses to name cat and buy furniture.
4d.  Quirky - Full of quirky, impulsive behaviour - mostly to hide insecurities.  Regularly journeys window to window.
4e.  Unusual Things
i.  Clothing – Elegant clothing when out in public, casual at home (including an over-sized towel at a party before getting dressed.)
ii.  Transport - It's New York, so Taxis.
iii.  House – Normal apartment, but no (or little) furniture.
iv.  Job – No job, lives on money from men, especially from a mob boss to deliver coded messages.
v.  Objects – Has a cat but refuses to name it.
vi.  Mix-Tape - Pre the mix tape era, does sing to herself.


Pixie, or possibly a fairy princess.
Holly does accuse the woman that Rusty Trawler marries of being "Queen of the Pixies."
5a.  Tiny - Thin, short and svelte.  Long hair, but usually worn up to look short.
5b.  Cute features - It's Audrey Hepburn.  Duh.
5c.  Girlish - Girlish looking.
5d.  Clothing - Mostly not pixie clothing.


6a.  Dream Girl - Once again, Audrey, duh.  Beyond that, "everyone always thinks" that they're "absolutely cuckoo for..." her.
6b.  Dream-like - Wakes him up early in the morning.  Sort of dream-like.  Singing "Moon River" probably counts, too.


7a.  Female - Yes, she is.
7b.  Girlish - As stated above, yes.


Ends up on his balcony at some time before 4 in the morning, invites herself into his bed.  Invites him to drinks.  She doesn't insert herself into her life any more than that and doesn't set out to change him, but he changes himself because of her.


Lulamae Barnes's quirkiness is used to hide her fears.  She was married to a much older man before she ran off to the big city.


Happy ending she find Cat and kisses the guy.  Kissing with a rising score can only mean one thing - everyone lives happily ever after.  There is no sequel.


Rules followed by this film:  2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10.
Rules partially followed by this film: 1, 3, 8.
Strongly follows the rules.  Lulamae is a massively damaged character hiding behind the manic pixie dream girl character Holly Golightly.
Going out with a song (not "Moon River")

~ DUG.
Remember to vote here to help choose the fifth set of rules to be tested.
Check out the Workspace page help pick genres, rules and films.
Schedule for upcoming films for this blog. 


  1. I have to disagree with her pushing him away not wanting more thing because she does do that. At one point she is engaged to Jose and towards the end is even getting ready to leave NY for him. Why? Because he has money which Paul (and her husband) does not.

    I think there should be a list of rules for Hollywood changes that force films to conform to tropes that do not exist in the primary source, whether the film is based on real life (biopic) or a book (in BaT case, a novella) because some of the changes made are informative.

    1. I figured it was her choice to push him away, rather than external circumstances... but that is a rather vague distinction so I accept your point.

      I really like your idea for a list of rules for adaptation and have added it too my "workspace" page (see link at bottom of article), where I'm opening these page up to input from other people. Because picking and designing the rules is in some ways the most fun part.