The Apartment (1960)

Some people take, some people get took. And they know they’re getting took and there’s nothing they can do about it. –Fran Kubelik

1

The pitch:

Jack Lemon plays a cog in the wheel of a gigantic insurance company who lets his superiors use his apartment for their trysts. Hilarity ensues.

What it’s about:

It’s about the way we use one another. For sex. For kicks. To promote our economic and social welfare. Etc.

Pluses

1. Billy Wilder. The movie is produced and directed by Billy Wilder, who also did, among other things, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Witness for the Prosecution, and Some Like it Hot. ‘Nuff said.

2. Shirley MacLaine. I’d have to look back through my blog posts to be sure, but I feel like I always talk about how gorgeous the women are and how talented the men are. I should fix that, and I can easily start here, for Shirley MacLaine is very talented in this movie. Her character, Fran Kubelik, easily could have come off as merely pathetic rather than sympathetic and empathetic. She doesn’t, and as a result we totally buy Baxter’s feelings for her. What’s more, MacLaine achieves this without having a heck of a lot of dialogue to rely on. In several scenes, she has to convey what she’s thinking and feeling non-verbally, and she nails it. Oh, and did I mention she’s gorgeous?

3. Jack Lemmon. I’m not a huge Jack Lemmon fan. Probably, I just haven’t seen enough of his work, but something about his facial expressions are just a bit too exaggerated for me, and his shtick overall a bit too vaudevillian. Nevertheless, he’s definitely a “plus” in The Apartment.

Minuses

1. At 125 minutes, it’s a fairly long film, but, hey, who’s counting?  Had to struggle to come up with a minus for this one one. There are moments when I wanted to scream at Baxter, “Just go after her already, dumb ass!” If he had, the film could have ended sooner. But then again, it would also have been more Hollywood normative, and part of the appeal is the fact that it’s not. The film is a comedy, yes, but Wilder keeps it real in part by not letting any of the characters, including Baxter, completely off the hook. Having him arrive like the night in shining armor would have done so. Wilder, likewise, also refuses to let the audience completely off the hook. The slapping scene will make you feel uncomfortable–as it should. It’s a comedy, yes, but it’s no laughing matter, especially at that point in the film.

What I liked about it:

I liked everything about it. It’s one of the most perfect, artistically complete films I’ve ever seen, and I’m betting it’s one that’s going to stay with me for a while. The Wiki entry has some really great tidbits about it as well. According to the Wiki, “The initial concept for the film came from Brief Encounter by Noël Coward, in which Celia Johnson has an affair with Trevor Howard in his friend’s apartment. However, due to the Hays Production Code, Wilder was unable to make a film about adultery in the 1940s.” Dis-regarding the fact that Brief Encounter is itself a film about adultery, I love that. No wonder I liked it so much–one of my favorite writer/directors made a movie based on a scene from one of my favorite movies made by another of my favorite writer/directors.

Also, there’s this delicious report about Fred McMurray’s experience after making the movie:

According to Fred MacMurray, after the film’s release he was accosted by women in the street who berated him for making a “dirty filthy movie” and once one of them hit him with her purse.

Hah, hah! You go, Fred! Taking one for the team!  (Trust me, you’ll want to hit Fred with something while watching this film as well. He’s also very good in it. Where’s your flubber now, you #@%$&%$!!)

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