Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Apartment (1960)

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine deliver some incredibly performances in this Best Picture winner.

Jack Lemmon is C.C. Baxter (though, most people call him Buddy Boy), a everyday Joe who works for an insurance company. But C.C. has discovered a way to get on the good side of his superiors, by allowing them to use his apartment for their torrid affairs. But when his boss Mr. Sheldrake's affair with elevator girl Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), who C.C. has had a crush on for a while, ends badly and leaves the poor girl shattered, C.C. tries to help her and falls in love along the way.

The film was written and directed by Billy Wilder, easily one of the greatest people to ever get into film (He's responsible for Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, and Some Like it Hot, for starters), and it shows. The film has a sharpness and a humanity about it that you typically find in a lot of Wilder's work. It also expertly balance the light and the dark, the film can take some heavy turns, but there's always a moment of humor or sincerity to break up the gloom.

The acting here is phenomenal. Jack Lemmon is wonderful as a frazzled everyman who places his own career advancement above his personal life and comfort. He has a lot of frantic mannerisms, but the performance has a lot of nuance to it, watching his heart break when he finds out about the affair between Fran and his boss, and observing him slowly fall in love with the poor elevator girl. He's just a decent guy, and Lemmon avoids adding any real darkness to the role, just a sense of puppydog sadness and weariness.

MacLaine is also wonderful. Fran is a romantic young woman who puts up a facade of humor and quirkiness to hide a lot of pain and remorse over her past romances that haven't ended all too well (she keeps a broken pocket mirror stating it "Makes me look the way I feel"). The role could have easily gone into far too much woe-is-me nonsense, but MacLaine keeps a humorous edge to a lot of what Fran says, even when she's allowing herself to be hurt and vulnerable.

Fred MacMurray is good here as well, playing a total slimeball, who uses the same ploys to land woman after woman, convincing each one that he's in love with them and on the verge of leaving his wife. It's amazing to see the sudden warmth and caring develop when he's turning on the charm, knowing that he's essentially a jerk trying to get what he wants.

The film is a very human story, showcasing two wounded, damaged people who slowly begins to heal themselves by their growing friendship and romance. We see C.C. change from a doormat to a more assertive man, who doesn't allow those to simply boss him around, and we see Fran begin to shift from being satisfied with being "the other woman" to realizing that she deserves someone better.

It's a wonderful film, regarded as one of the best ever, and I can't really disagree with that.

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