The Apartment Reviews
As in Shop, Christmastime and suicide mingle, and the name "Kubelik" has the old-world ring of Kralik, Matuschek, et al.; Baxter's Jewish neighbors put him on the road from schnook to mensch (perhaps this is Wilder responding to the critique that he wasn't Jewish enough?). And Billy again pulls of his trademark feat of finding pathos in taboo subjects. He had a sign in his office that read, "How Would Lubitsch Do It?" and here that director's elusive touch hovers over the proceedings, lending a lightness to even the most mercenary transactions. A classic in the truest sense of the word.
What I liked about it is that it doesn't turn into a sugary romantic movie, the characters stay true to themselves.
The film gets more serious as it goes on, but the first half is really pretty funny, and it's just a joy watching Jack Lemmon act all harried and whatnot. He gives a great performance, as do Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray, even though no one is the cast is bad.
I rather like that, perhaps due to the time period, this film leaves much to the imagination- something that probably wouldn't happen if it were made now. Everyone, and not just the actors, are firing on all cylinders here
The film certainly begins as a comedy. C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) is a young bachelor trying to ascend the corporate ladder by allowing a group of his superiors to use his apartment for their extra-marital liaisons. After he falls for charismatic elevator attendant Fran (MacLaine), who is engaged in an illicit relationship with Mr. Sheldrake, the married head of the company, Baxter tries to free himself from the demands of his bosses, with hilarious results. While this is certainly risqué subject matter (for 1960), the film takes an unexpectedly sombre turn when Fran makes a suicide attempt in the apartment after learning the truth behind Sheldrake's motives. What follows is a touching, and at times heart-wrenching flowering of Baxter and Fran's relationship, and if the ending is a little predictable, the journey getting there is really something wonderful.
The Apartment features an excellent selection of fully-formed support characters, but the film really belongs to Lemmon and MacLaine. Lemmon's reputation as cinema's greatest everyman is really on show here, and it's impossible not to root for him and sympathise with his plight. Playing Baxter as a charming yet awkward underdog, his character is the embodiment of the 'nice guys finish last' maxim, and although some elements of his life may be a little shady to say the least, Lemmon is flawless. MacLaine is completely up to Lemmon's high standard as Fran, effortlessly making audiences fall in love with her just as Baxter has. She's just so damn cute that even when she's recovering from an overdose of sleeping pills, she exudes such a potent 'girl next door' allure that can't be avoided. Her chemistry with Lemmon is palpable, and when they inevitably end up together, it's one of those truly satisfying romantic moments seen all too rarely in modern cinema.
I'm not usually one to get nostalgic when it comes to film periods, but while I do have great fondness for many more recent romantic comedies, Hollywood really doesn't make movies like The Apartment any more. Wilder's screenplay (co-written with I.A.L. Diamond) is clever, witty and engaging, particularly in the subtle motifs and unique idiosyncrasies of all the characters, and the film is just so expertly crafted. I'm determined now to seek out more Wilder films, along with catching up on my Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. I can't recommend The Apartment highly enough!
C.C. Baxter: Really? I was reading some figures from the Sickness and Accident Claims Division. You know that the average New Yorker between the ages of twenty and fifty has two and a half colds a year?
Fran Kubelik: That makes me feel just terrible.
C.C. Baxter: Why?
Fran Kubelik: Well, to make the figures come out even, if I have no colds a year, some poor slob must have five colds a year.
C.C. Baxter: Yeah... it's me.
This is a great movie. It's a broad thing to declare right off the bat, but this is a great movie. It's been talked about for years, but I'm gonna try to apply some of my own words to it anyway. This is a comedy that hits many dark and dramatic beats as well. It features very good, funny, and witty dialogue. There are some great performances here. And the whole thing manages to come together very well.
Insurance statistician C.C. "Bud" Baxter, played by Jack Lemmon, advances his career by making his Manhattan apartment available to executives in his company for their extramarital affairs. His boss, Jeff D. Sheldrake, played by Fred MacMurray, finds out and promotes Bud in return for the exclusive use of the apartment for his own affair. When Sheldrake's girlfriend turns out to be Fran Kubelik, played by Shirley MacLaine, a pretty elevator operator Bud likes, he is heartbroken, but continues to deal with the arrangement.
C.C. Baxter: Ya know, I used to live like Robinson Crusoe; I mean, shipwrecked among 8 million people. And then one day I saw a footprint in the sand, and there you were.
This film really seals my love for Jack Lemmon. He's just a great actor who knows how to sell it. He knows how to portray a certain lovable quality despite his emotional state, which always puts you in a sense of understanding for him. What also helps is his way of performing. This is a noticeably prop heavy film, and Lemmon has a gift for physical acting as well, which is quite impressive.
Also strongly benefiting the film is MacLaine. Young Shirley MacLaine is a woman I have a crush on. She has a way of being pretty, funny, and spunky as Fran the elevator girl. However, when the film calls for it, MacLaine is able to imbue a sense of sadness in her character that is quite effective. Make no mistake, despite the strong billing of this film as a comedy, there is a lot of dark material at play here, involving adultery and attempted suicide, and its a credit to the strength of these leads that the film works very well.
Fran Kubelik: I was jinxed from the word go. The first time I was ever kissed was in a cemetery.
Supporting performances are all solid as well, which includes everyone's favorite father figure - Fred MacMurray, once again stepping back into a dark role that Billy Wilder has provided him, as the Mr. Sheldrake who toys with Fran's emotions as he cheats on his wife. Good work from Jack Kruschen as well as Baxter's neighbor and helpful doctor.
Dr. Dreyfuss: Be a mensch.
Of course the other big name here is Billy Wilder, who may have made his best film here, or at least certainly my favorite of his, and I'm a giant Double Indemnity fan. His work on this film is fantastic. Some great work visually, both in a very apparent sense and with little subtle touches. The tone of the film is just right, as it manages to balance comedy, drama, and romance all very effectively.
I can go on with describing things I liked about this film, but its one that I can simply say really deserves its high regard.
C.C. Baxter: That's the way it crumbles... cookie-wise.
The Apartment serves as a shining example of this particular talent of Lemmon's, as Mr. Baxter (his character) is getting ahead in his company not on his work merits (though he seems to be a solid employee), but rather by lending his apartment to his bosses so they have a place to discretely cheat on their wives.
The turning point in this film is one of the best: it went from romantic comedy to practically film noir - which might explain why Wilder shot it in black and white - at the exact moment where Mr. Baxter turns off the record when faced with a crisis in his apartment (I won't spoil it by telling you what that was). The note director Billy Wilder is making about diegetic versus extra-diegetic music is one thing (and quite forward looking for the time), but to see the movie's tone turn 180 degrees on a dime is stunning, and it was something I can't say I remember ever seeing done so well in a movie.
I can't remember seeing Shirley MacLaine in a movie before this one, though I'm sure that I have. And I haven't done enough research to prove that Scorsese loves this film, but something about the tone suggested to me that he learned a lot from Wilder. Maybe I'll update this review down the road if I find that information, it was just a feeling I got.
The Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1960 - no pedestrian year for movies - and with good reason, the Apartment is one of the best films you will ever watch, and if you haven't yet, do so. It is truly outstanding.
Shirley MacLaine is involved in a relationship with the boss (Fred MacMurray) but finds out during the movie that she is not the first, nor will she be the last. She tries to commit suicide and Jack Lemmon comes to the rescue!