Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Apartment (1960)

A movie that remains funny through attempted suicides, abusive relationships and corporate exploitation is a pretty rare thing. The Apartment succeeds at this, and more. It's a genuine and funny story that artfully walks the line between comedy and drama for it's entire length. Like the best comedies, The Apartment is a film that refuses to be classified. You will find plenty to laugh at, but it's honesty is it's cardinal virtue.

The Apartment is a movie that feels familiar, but it is full of pleasant surprises. Jack Lemmon, under the artful direction of Billy Wilder, plays C.C. Baxter, an up and comming employee at an insurance firm. Baxter is extremely popular at the office, but that has little to do with his work ethic. It has a lot to do with his apartment. Baxter let's some of the married men at the office borrow his apartment for their romantic interludes, but, when he finds out that his boss is bringing the girl of his dreams, Shirley MacLaine, to his apartment, things begin to spiral out of control.

To say that The Apartment is a daring film doesn't quite do it justice. It would be absolutely devestating if it wasn't for Wilder's masterful direction and the marvelous performances from Lemmon and MacLaine. The movie does everything it can to break your heart before picking up the pieces and making you feel whole again. Every twist and turn in this roller-coaster will leave you literally yelling, mostly at Baxter's inability to stand up for himself, at the screen. It's no small feat to make the audience care that much about your protagonist's success. Every lump he takes cuts twice as deep because he just takes it. No matter how much it hurts him, it hurts the audience twice as much to watch a genuine, all-around nice guy get jerked around. Even when he finally stands up for himself, takes some initiative, you still feel like Baxter has, somehow, lost.

It's almost impossible to pin down who deserves credit for The Apartment's success. Everywhere you look, there is something to be admired. Do you give Billy Wilder credit? His script and direction are spotless. What about MacLaine and Lemmon? Their unorthodox chemistry is impossible to miss and the film wouldn't be as dynamic or charming without their magnificent performances. The Apartment is a truly collaborative effort. Take away, or change, one element of the film, and it collapses.

Leave it to a master, Billy Wilder, to craft a film so genuine and funny that it remains as effective today as it was 50 years ago. There are very few movies as charming as The Apartment. It's an all-around marvelous effort from everyone involved and a film that deserves to be watched and talked about more.



blake said...

I agree with you, there wasn't a week link in the bunch, not in the cast, or the crew. At least not one I noticed. But I'd have to give the most credit to Wilder for writing such a timeless piece.

Alfindeol said...

He probably deserves the credit since he wrote and directed, but Lemmon and MacLaine are just SO charming.