Set in present-day 1961 (as opposed to during World War II as in the novel), the film introduces us to the gorgeous Holly Golightly (a sparkling Audrey Hepburn) as she staggers home early one morning in her little black dress and sunglasses after yet another all-night bender during which she likely doled out small favors to amorous older gentlemen in exchange for rent money. Pausing in front of Tiffany's, Holly munches a danish and sips coffee as she admires the jewelry in the window. It's an iconic movie moment. Holly sees herself as a free-spirit, a party girl, someone who, as she puts it, won't be caged by love or commitments. It's a lonely life, but it pays the bills. The'60s are on the verge of swinging.
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The film, as compelling as it is, is almost undone by Sinatra's performance, which is capable but unequal to his co-stars. Sinatra, of course, had so much power during the making of the film, that he's never really pushed for a good take. As a result, weaker scenes have been left in, presumably due to Sinatra's notorious unwillingness to do retakes. Too bad, because they're needed here badly. It's little matter, though: The Manchurian Candidate's classic structure and breakneck pacing are a perfect match for the movie's incredible story punch to the gut. George Axelrod's script turns Richard Condon's novel into classic cinema. Its suspense is gripping, and its biting political statement (lambasting McCarthyism deeply) is unparalleled in cinema this side of a Michael Moore movie.
Continue reading: The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Review