Friday, November 12, 2010

The Apartment

Another great film by Billy Wilder. I've seen that he can do film noir before, but now I know he can do romantic comedy. And those old romantic comedies that are actually funny and touching, not those modern ones that are all exactly the same familiar crap. The premise is something that could have come from a sitcom, but it's saved from those mundane origins by an extremely tight script that wrestles every possible ounce out of it and a fantastic cast. A few moments were sort of contrived, specifically how perfectly consistently everything the neighbors saw pointed to the same conclusion, but otherwise it was quite clever throughout.

It begins with a bit of narration by Jack Lemmon establishing his position in society at the outset. He works at an insurance company in New York City, and while he's an efficient worker, he doesn't get a lot of attention while on the job. He does however have a few executives on his side, because a situation has developed where he allows them to bring girlfriends and mistresses to his apartment near the park when he's not around, in return for a good word when promotion time comes. It's not a situation he's happy with, but he's accepted it, until he finds out that the reason the boss played by Fred MacMurray wants to use the apartment is he's having an affair with the elevator girl played by Shirley MacLaine that he's been getting to know.

Things proceed from there as everyone works with the knowledge they have, which might not be the complete picture. It's both funny and emotional when it wants as you feel affection for Lemmon and MacLaine as they get to know each other while events conspire against them, and MacMurray plays one of the more nuanced and interesting antagonistic characters from this kind of movie. What's interesting is the film's perceived dirtiness fifty years ago versus today. At the time it was controversial for its depiction of things like adultery, but it's almost impossibly innocent today, without so much as a single kiss taking place on screen (at least not that I can remember). It strikes the right balance between humor and drama, and is simply one of the best films I've seen from the 60s.

No comments: