Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Apartment (1960)

I've had the French version of the poster hanging in my room (a delightful gift from my guy) for about two years now, yet for some reason I haven't taken in a viewing of The Apartment for ages. It's one of my favorite films, but I find parts of it so sad that I have to be in the right mood to watch it. Affable insurance adjuster and bachelor CC Baxter (Jack Lemmon) finds himself suddenly on the rise within his firm after he starts lending out his apartment to high-placed coworkers with mistresses. When word gets out to his boss Mr Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), Baxter finds himself playing host to depressed elevator service operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), whom Sheldrak's been dating on the sly. While Baxter tries to cheer her up and prevent her from killing herself, she begins to wonder if loving a married asshole is really the best way to use her affections.

This movie is the ultimate blending of drama and comedy, perfectly meshing the two styles to make for an utterly realistic, subtle, and sweet movie. The script is punchy and paced well, incorporating adorable narration from Baxter and introspective dialogue for Miss Kubelik as our heartstrings are tugged back and forth. The characters are smartly written and well-developed, giving a fairly straightforward story interest, depth, and relatability. I love the pop culture references (especially the Marilyn Monroe impersonator), cleverly simple sight gags (Baxter eating dinner in front of the tv, reacting to the announcer), and little digs at American business (anything at Baxter's office).

Along with the pitch-perfect script, it's the performances that make this movie, really. Jack Lemmon is the lovable everyman: a genuinely nice, unassuming guy who's sadly a pushover (you know, the one none of the girls go for, apparently). He's naturally very funny in his goofy facial expressions and enthusiastic delivery, while getting in some appreciated dramatic bits as he concerns himself with Miss Kubelik's suicidal state. Shirley MacLaine gets to me every time with her big doe eyes, pouty mouth, and cute haircut- my heart just melts whenever she's on screen. Fran is a light-hearted working girl with tragedy brimming below the surface because she can't seem to help but fall in love with awful men (hmm reminds me of another Wilder lady protagonist), and MacLaine just nails every subtlety and affectation of her character. Oh and Fred MacMurray plays a great smooth-talking asshole.

This movie is so good, you guys. So, so, so good. I laughed, I cried. Literally. If you've never seen it than what the hell are you doing with your miserable life?


Pair This Movie With: I often mentally link this with Irma La Douce, the other Wilder/MacLaine/Lemmon team-up from the 60's. It's not as good, but it's cute and features a rather fetching pair of green stockings.

My original poster design for this film is available for purchase.


  1. I'd probably never watch this film, but with a recommendation such as this I guess I'll have to give it a go. Now what do I bump to fit it in? Badlands or Brainstorm?

    Thanks for the review. You've made my blogroll!

    The Sound and Fury of Kristopher A. Denby

  2. Aaahhh I love this movie. One of the few times in the 1950s-'60s when the Best Picture Oscar went to a totally deserving movie. It's such a great mix of cute love story and bitter, depressing (sexual) reality. Lemmon and MacLaine at their best - and with Irma La Douce as its totally frivolous, silly counterpart. Yaaay.

  3. Saw this in theaters recently and sobbed probably the most I ever have in public [besides Titanic].

  4. I still ask people how they are doing, Kubelick-wise. This movie's great. I have a high school friend whose favorite movie in any film is a scene where a character cooks (Clemenza in the Godfather "Mikey, I'm gonna teach you how to do this because you don't know when you're gonna have to cook for thirty people", Kramer vs Kramer with the French toast, etc) and Jack Lemmon using a tennis racket to make pasta definitely ranks among the best. It's just a great movie, period, the end.
    Irma La Douce, on the other hand, I did not care for. Sorry, bro.

  5. Kristopher: No need to bump anything, just squeeze it in between! I hope you enjoy it, and thanks so much for the blogroll addition! I will respond in kind.

    Andreas: Yes, I so rarely agree with Best Picture winners but this deserves every award it can get! Yayyyyy!

    Nicole: Jealous you saw it in a theater, but relieved to hear I'm not the only one who cries like crazy during this movie.

    Muffin: I love when people cook in movies too, and this is one of the cutest cooking scenes I think! Also I didn't love Irma La Douce, but it's helped by its awesome stars and I haven't seen it in many a year, so my memory's fuzzy on just how good or bad it is. Like I said, I just always mentally link it with The Apartment. I think I first watched both around the same time during some TCM marathon or other.

  6. Alex-

    Dually noted.

    Thanks so much for the link! I actually told a guy at my favorite local movie resale shop about your blog today. I love the variety of movies you review. And I've also noticed that you have reviewed some films that I have on my to do list. Forgive me if I stay away from those until I've written my own analysis.

    Videodrome is one of them. I'm really into late 70's-80's sci-fi right now. I just reviewed 'The Adventure of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension', and I think it's right up your alley.


    The Sound and Fury of Kristopher A. Denby

  7. If I was to ever put together my top 10 of all time (the urge of which I've managed to avoid thus far) The Apartment would likely appear right at the top. A couple of reasons immediately spring to mind: I'd want to highlight at least one of Billy Wilder's movies, and secondly, the longevity and enduring quality of this film. Such wonderful performances, such a wonderful story, such a perfect script with dialogue that sizzles. Love this film.