'Crazy About Tiffany's': Film Review

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis
A puff-piece documentary.
2/19/2016

Matthew Miele's documentary examines the history and cultural impact of the famed jewelry company.

Don't look for any provocative insights in Matthew Miele's "fully authorized" documentary about the famed jewelry company Tiffany & Co. Continuing the retail obsession displayed in the director's Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, Crazy About Tiffany's resembles the sort of promotional film most appropriately showcased at company meetings. Those enthralled by the venerable brand will no doubt swoon, but casual viewers will find it little more than a feature-length infomercial.

The film provides a cursory history of the retail establishment, from its 1837 founding as a fancy stationery store by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young to its 1845 creation of the "Blue Book," the first mail-order catalog, to Tiffany's 1866 creation of the modern engagement ring. (Regarding the last, I think I speak for all men when I say thanks ... thanks a lot.)

But the historical background, including Charles' son Louis Comfort Tiffany taking over in 1902 and remaking the brand with his revolutionary designs — in such areas as stained glass, ceramics, metalwork and enamels — takes a backseat to an examination of the company's cultural impact. An eclectic group of celebrities delivers commentary, including Jessica Biel, Baz Luhrmann, Fran Liebowitz, Rob Marshall, Rachel Zoe, director Sam Taylor Johnson (50 Shades of Grey)  and Jennifer Tilly.

Tilly, who admits to taking roles in bad movies just for the money to pay for her expensive jewelry habit (ah, that explains a lot), proudly shows off a gorgeous brooch pinned on her chest.

"I'm really a fan of big, big pieces," she explains, as the camera leeringly delivers a close-up of her ample breasts.

Katie Couric also provides some commentary, after which she playfully asks the crew, "Do I know how to give good f—ing sound bites or what?" making you like her all the more. We see footage of her 50th birthday party held at the flagship store, which seems like the most fun event ever to which you weren't invited.

Not surprisingly, there are numerous film and television clips featuring the store, with, you guessed it, Breakfast at Tiffany's assuming the prominent role. We learn that in return for being allowed to film on the Fifth Avenue premises, Paramount provided Audrey Hepburn for a glamorous photo shoot that made her the face of the brand.

Other films featured include Bride Wars (in which the famed little blue box is treated like a holy relic), The Great Gatsby and Sweet Home Alabama. Andy Tennant, who directed the last, talks about how the studio requested a flashier proposal scene for Patrick Dempsey and Reese Witherspoon. Tennant obliged with a sequence set in the store after-hours that was retail porn for many female viewers. 

For every interesting segment, such as one devoted to the many U.S. presidents who have been the store's customers (Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Ike and JFK, among others), there's another that sets your teeth on edge, such as when a sales clerk holds up a $923,000 engagement ring to the camera.

"Still a bargain," he says cheerfully.

Blithely traversing its subject like a game of Trivial Pursuit — do we really need to know the genesis of the '90s pop song "Breakfast at Tiffany's," by one-hit wonder Deep Blue Something? — the doc, unlike a million-dollar gem, quickly loses its luster.

Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Production: Quixotic Endeavors
Director-screenwriter: Matthew Miele
Producer-director of photography-editor: Justin Bare
Executive producers: Stephen McCarthy, Clive Gerson
Composers: Ryan Beatty, Daniel Warren

Not rated, 87 minutes

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