Everything in the love story comes back to and relies on character, choice, and finding the something real over selling out for something fake. The ending of the film beautifully recalls beginning scenes between Holly and Paul to show how Paul and Holly have grown beyond that first meeting and set the stage for the final confrontation.
Paul comes into Holly’s apartment, transformed from a barren room with a halved out tub and empty bookcase to a garish, cramped place with oddities hanging from every wall. All that remains the same is Holly’s nameless Cat. Instead of being half dressed when Paul first met her or in one of her stylish black dresses, Holly is casual in a sweater, slacks, and flats (still fabulous). Holly, like her apartment, has gone overboard with the delusions Paul warned her against: selling yourself to marry rich and powerful. Holly holds on to her fantasy, but Paul, retaining his leading man presence and working as a writer, pokes holes into it while referencing his feelings for her.
Paul Varjak: [about Holly and Jose] So you’re getting married, then?
Holly Golightly: Well, he hasn’t really asked me, not in so many words.
Paul Varjak: Four you mean?
Holly Golightly: Huh?
Paul Varjak: Well that’s how many it takes: Will. You. Marry. Me.
Paul’s warnings come true once Holly is arrested and Jose dumps her to avert public scandal. Instead of admitting Paul was right and turning around, Holly rebounds with anger, wanting him to give her a list of the 50 richest men in Brazil and committing herself to finding a rich sap.Audrey Hepburn expertly shows us the ugliest side of Holly’s ambition and convinces us she is a lost cause.
Paul returns with equal anger at Holly’s stubbornness and George Peppard nails one of my favorite movie recriminations.
Paul: You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-You-Are?
You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, “Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other,” because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.
You call yourself a free spirit, a wild thing, and you’re terrified somebody’s going to stick you in a cage. Well, baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somaliland. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.
I’ve been carrying this thing around for months. I don’t want it anymore.
Holly seems unmoved by Paul’s speech, staring straight ahead, until he tosses a ring into her lap, the ring from Tiffany’s.
In that moment, Tiffany’s and all it stands for becomes real in the person of Paul and her abandoned Cat. We see Holly make the right choice in running after Paul and searching for Cat. The final kiss is a bonus to the happiness you see in Hepburn’s eyes at the sight of Cat. We rejoice more in Holly changing her mind and rejecting her cynical scheme. Paul too, is worthy of Holly now and we can leave that rainy New York alley with faith in them and perhaps in ourselves to be brave, hopeful, and lovely.