Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oscar Movie Review: "The Apartment" (1960)

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Movie"The Apartment"
Year Nominated: 1961
Director: Billy Wilder
Rating: NR
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Did It Win?: Yes.

Insurance processor and professional doormat C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), in an effort to get ahead, allows the executives of his company to use his apartment for their illicit affairs. Baxter has also taken a liking to Fran (Shirley McClain), the elevator operator who works in his office building. When the top executive at his firm, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), gets Baxter a promotion in exchange for regular use of his apartment, things actually get worse for Baxter when he discovers Mr. Sheldrake's mistress is none other than the object of his affection, Fran herself. 
It is now 2015 and times have obviously changed very much since 1960, especially with the proliferation of the internet and cell phones. "The Apartment" deals with a lot of what were considered risque topics for the 60's, and even now, that significance is not lost on us. When we were finished watching this film, we has to ask ourselves: was it commonplace in the 1950's and 1960's for men and women to have affairs like it was nothing? We know that the divorce rate was much lower back then than it is now, but it certainly isn't because people were more faithful, especially if you judge this based on the cinema of the time. The theme of adultery seems very commonplace from films from the 50's and 60's...or maybe it's just something that transcends time. Beyond this, we have the added workplace element here as Baxter is offered a promotion to move up in the world of business, so long as he offers up his apartment as a love shack for his boss' and coworkers' illicit flings. This is quite an interesting movie, and to see a boss so blatantly using their power over employees to host affairs in one of their homes? This movie clearly laid the groundwork for other movies like "The Loft," but it shouldn't be held responsible for atrocious films such as that one.

None of the characters in this movie are perfectly moral people. They all have flaws and that makes them seem more true and relateable. This gives the movie as a whole a much more rich, realistic feel to it. Baxter is okay with letting other men use his apartment for their affairs to get a leg-up at work. Mr. Sheldrake is a married man and philandering womanizer, regularly cheating on his wife, sometimes with people from the office. Fran is Sheldrake's mistress and is 100% aware that he is married, but hopes he will dump his family for her. As we mentioned, this film does deal with risque themes, one of which is attempted suicide, a topic that was not regularly covered in movies of this era, either. When Fran attempts suicide, even now we were taken a little aback. In fact, we're willing to guess that much of the film was groundbreaking at the time and it still holds up pretty well today, though some parts are a bit dated. Though some serious topics are addressed in this movie, the balance between comedy and drama is excellent and we never see this film as anything but "adult" (since some flicks deal with these topics in an all but mature manner).

Billy Wilder was a genius director. He had this unique way of crafting his films so that not only the camerawork seemed seamless and realistic, but the dialogue, interactions and settings were all flawless and real, too. Also, Jack Lemmon is quite amazing in this movie. He has many different traits here, from lonely and naive yet trustworthy, to funny and a "buddy" to his bosses, to much more stoic and serious. Lemmon plays all of these traits really well and we love watching him be the leading man. Together, Wilder and Lemmon were an unstoppable pair. This movie does seem to be a little long, though most of it is relatively enjoyable, if you like movies about infidelity, inequality towards women in the workplace and suicide. It's not the best Best Picture nominee, but it is not the worst by far.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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