Friday, January 13, 2012

The Apartment (1960)

The Apartment (1960) ★★★★★ 5/5

Absolutely love this movie. It is one I have seen before and was thrilled to find it as an upcoming movie on the DVR. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine make a dynamite onscreen duo in this fantastic film. Lemmon plays C. C. Baxter, an corporate employee of an insurance company who makes his way up the corporate ladder by loaning his apartment to senior executives who use the pad to carry on affairs with their mistresses. When he is given the promotion, he finds out his boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), is wanting to take advantage of the apartment himself. The first day of the promotion, Baxter plans to go home and sleep off a cold. But instead, Sheldrake gives him tickets to see "The Music Man," so Baxter tries to take advantage of it by asking out the cute elevator girl, Fran Kubelik (MacLaine).

Although the story is quite complex as to the dynamics and relationships between the characters, the setup makes it easy to follow along and anticipate what will happen before it actually occurs. The audience knows before it even happens that Kubelik won't show up for the date. They also know that the girl that Sheldrake is going to meet is going to be Kubelik. In spite o the predictability, the film holds up amazingly because they seem to be setting the viewer up for the character's emotional reactions rather then the actual event happening.

The characters in this film are so likable, yet at the same time so vulnerable that you want to reach into the screen, shake them and tell them what to do. It is an interesting take on married business men and one that has been examined in film so often that it seems as if in 1959 that the notion of having a mistress was nothing out of the ordinary. They have a boys club. They have their mistresses and work very hard at scheduling in their affairs and congratulate each other on their conquests. The workplace in the film was so sexually charged. There is ass slapping, there are secretaries who are love interests and there are no female employees with high paying positions. Kubelik and her relationship with Sheldrake is so stereotypical, but at the same time still common in media and news stories today. The married man sleeping with a young, beautiful woman, but constantly telling her that he loves her and is going to leave his wife. He strings her along and in doing so MacLaine gracefully conveys what effect that has on a woman. Her vulnerability leads her to a suicide attempt. It leads to loneliness, self pity, self loathing, self depreciation and confusion. We see the whole thing played out and it plays out brilliantly in her face alone.

Lemmon as Baxter shows the same emotion and same vulnerability. He unwillingly loans his apartment out to the unfaithful executives. He is forced to sleep outside, stay at work late, and wander the streets because his home is in use. However, he can't build up the courage to say no because he needs his job. When he makes the connect that Kubelik and Sheldrake are having an affair, we see how hurt and alone he is. When he finds Kubelik overdosed in his bed on Christmas Eve, he takes the blame for that - as he did with constant noise complaints his tenants would make. He is a martyr of sorts for the boys club and you just want to grab hold of him and tell him to stop.

By the film's close, Baxter and Kubelik both make personal changes. These changes help make the movie even stronger. There is nothing more satisfying in a film then when the main characters overcome adversity and there is an evolution as to who they become. As the film ends, and the couple play gin on New Year's Eve, there is a solid sense of closure and a rewarding feeling that the main characters did stand up to their biggest challenges. For Baxter is was reclaiming his apartment. For Kubelik it was accepting that she did not have to settle for a married man who used women.

An excellent film and a deserving winner of the 1961 Oscar for Best Picture. Shot in black and white, the film is timeless. Great movie! And keep an eye out for a very young, and very nice looking Ray Walston.

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