Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Apartment

The Apartment, 1960
Directed by Billy Wilder
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 5

The Apartment tells the story of mid-level employee at an insurance company. C.C. Baxter (more often known as Bud), is a hard worker, stays at the office long past his punch-out time, and is quickly ascending the work ladder. But not really for the reasons you first assume. Baxter loans out his apartment to various company executives so they can have somewhere private for their affairs, in exchange for them putting in a good word to their boss, Mr Sheldrake. Baxter has four regular customers for his apartment and when he finally does have a meeting with Mr. Sheldrake for a promotion, he learns that Sheldrake wants in on the deal. Baxter quickly agrees, but doesn't realize that exactly this entails. The girl Baxter has a crush on, the smart and witty elevator girl named Fran, turns out to be Mr Sheldrake's mistress! That is, if Sheldrake can convince her to give him another chance, saying he will divorce his wife. More havoc ensues as Sheldrake and Fran continue to use Baxter's apartment, but after one Christmas Eve disaster, leaving Fran to be taken care of by Baxter, Baxter tries to show Fran that there's more to life than people using you, and that maybe he can be the one she needs. Also, just a warning, that there are spoilers ahead.

While I did roughly know the premise of the story before I watched this, this film was much more explicit than I had expected! No, no, it's not at all explicit now in 2014. No nudity, no swearing, no any kind of "scenes". I more just meant the direct allusions to sex and infidelity. There is no kicking around about why most people want to use Baxter's apartment, and the comments from the neighbours don't leave a ton to the imagination, as far as a 1960's film goes! However, I found this slightly refreshing, that we're vaguely clear about what the apartment is used for. What I also liked about this story, was that it was something not too far a stretch to imagine going on in a large company.

Jack Lemmon gives a great performance as Baxter, and Shirley MacLaine is lovely and witty as Fran. Indeed, these two are by far the stand outs here. Having just come off of the success and brilliance of Some Like it Hot, Billy Wilder wanted to do another film with Jack Lemmon (who also earned an Acting nomination for both films). While they weren't able to do quite the film they wanted because of the Hays Code, the film was still brilliant and hilarious.

While the film is definitely some sort of mash of comedy and drama, the comedy leads the first half of the film, with the irony of Baxter asking Fran out (to a show he received tickets to from Sheldrake, only so that he can use his apartment later), only to have Fran say she's busy meeting someone for dinner, but may be able to come after. Of course, Fran is going to see Sheldrake, and Sheldrake plans to take Fran to Baxter's apartment, all the while the three not really realizing all that happens, especially when Fran then stands Baxter up later in the evening. However, the film gets a lot darker than I expected this to get. While not overly dark, it is a more sobering look at relationships and infidelity, and the price that mistress's pay for being in the situation they're in.

Fran attempts to commit suicide after Sheldrake reveals yet again he won't ask his wife for a divorce, and one of Sheldrake's old mistresses tells her about everyone else he's been with, and all the lines he spewed for them, he's currently spewing for Fran. She lingers at Baxter's apartment after Sheldrake leaves (it's Christmas Eve), and steals too many sleeping pills, and Baxter finds her unconscious and not waking up, on his bed. While the film didn't stay too heavy during this time (there are scenes of Baxter making spaghetti and straining it using a tennis racket, playing gin rummy together, etc), it was a little darker than I had thought it would go. I feel Wilder was able to find a good balance between the heavy and the light and really make it a relatable and accessible story, without becoming too depressing.

Again, the performances were also spot on, with Jack Lemmon doing his awesome thing, being able to balance the comic, goofy sides and really empathizing with Fran and caring for her. As well, I haven't seen much of Shirley MacLaine's work (aside from Terms of Endearment), but she was fantastic as Fran, really giving such a range of emotions, all while keeping it believable.

Overall, I found this film quite enjoyable, especially compared to the last few Best Picture winners I've watched. This movie is definitely a gem and Billy Wilder is a talented guy, having written and directed one other BP Winner, and having won a total of 6 Oscars for his work.

Acting- 8.5/10 
Directing- 8.5/10 
Screenplay- 8.5/10 
Visuals- 7.5/10 
Music- 7/10 
Emotional Connection- 8/10 
Entertainment- 8.5/10 
Rewatchability- 7.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10 
Overall Package- 8/10       

Total: 80/100

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