Apartment, The (1960) * Top Pick *


 Oh most misleading marketing ever, you so coy!
Oh most misleading marketing ever, you so coy!

Genre: Drama Romance

Starring: Jack Lemmon (Glengarry Glen Ross • The China Syndrome), Shirley MacLaine (The Trouble With HarryTerms of Endearment)

Directed By: Billy Wilder (Ace in The Hole • Sunset Boulevard)

Overview: C.C. Baxter has a way to get noticed. Sheldrake has it all. Fran wishes she did. The unethical shell game is afoot.

The Apartment is a film that immediately jumps off the screen, screaming to its audience that the sedate society of 1960 isn't really all that sedate after all.

It's no wonder that the characters of AMC's wicked awesome drama "Mad Men" discussed The Apartment in an episode of theirs and have tributed it on several occasions. Without a doubt, the show owes its entire foundation to The Apartment's auteur, Billy Wilder. Don't get me wrong. It's most definitely a good thing since there's no better source material for that perfect mood of 'New York 1960 office workplace drunken debauchery with a heavy dollop of self-worthlessness'.

There are so many great things about The Apartment and the first one is that I don't need to convince you of this film's greatness with the flourish of words. We'll begin with cold, hard facts - 5 Oscars:

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White - Alexandre Trauner, Edward G. Boyle

Best Director --Billy Wilder

Best Film Editing --Daniel Mandell

Best Picture --Billy Wilder

Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen --Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond

The film was also nominated for best Actor, Supporting Actor, Actress, Sound and Cinematography, Black-and-White.

For those of you who, like me, thought this was a charming little tale in the vein of The Odd Couple, let me say that that quaint little cover with Jack and Shirley playing cards is absolutely misleading. This tale is far more important and goes far deeper. The Apartment is nothing less than a contemporary study of the pain and loneliness that people willingly engage in knowing that their slimmest of hopes will in all likelihood remain unfulfilled. Not only that, but every single character in The Apartment chases their dream in a most unethical manner. Our 'hero', C.C. Baxter is one of the 31,259 employees at his insurance firm trying to get noticed and get ahead. The way he does this is by lending his apartment to a small but growing group of unscrupulous execs who use his pad to cheat on their wives.

Sylvia (Kirkeby's Mistress): You mean you bring other girls up here?
Kirkeby: Certainly not! I'm a happily married man.

Our hero's 'love interest', Fran Kubelik, is a company elevator operator having an affair with our hero's boss, J.D. Sheldrake. Fran's dream is to get the man she loves all to herself, while Sheldrake, of course, wants it all: the wife, the kids, the mistress, and as you may have guessed, the key to The Apartment.

Sure Billy Wilder's film has several light-hearted moments, which only serve to draw us in for the one-two punch that is Shirley MacLaine's brilliant and tragic presence. Add to this a supporting cast - even a tertiary cast that delivers Oscar-class performances - and it's a story that you can't possibly hope to shake, all presented in Glorious Black And White.

I only have two regret about The Apartment. The first is that it's been sitting unopened on my shelf for over a year. The second is that I can't see it again for the first time.

Billy Wilder, explaining what 'in her place' means. Shiley MacLaine, showing him back.
Billy Wilder, explaining what 'in her place' means. Shirley MacLaine, showing him back.

Performance: 10 Cinematography: 9 Script: 9 Plot: 8 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 90% (Don't Stay Cooped up)

Though IMDb goes so far as to bill The Apartment a Romantic Comedy Drama as its genre, I would disagree wholeheartedly. If The Apartment is a Romantic Comedy, then so's the drug-addled tragedy Requiem for a Dream - so's Klute, a mystery thriller about a private eye who sorta/kinda falls for a whore in a very realistic post-modern sense. Moments of laughter does not a Rom-Com make, and though you can watch this one with your mom, it's definitely not stupid escapism, and it's no wonder it's on AFI's Top 100 films.

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