Saturday, 19 April 2014

''The Apartment'' (1960 movie)- Review

Directed by: Billy Wilder
Released: 1960
Country: United States

Genre: Comedy-drama

Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen

Rating: 5 out of 5


With ''The Apartment'', I have watched three Billy Wilder films (the other two are ''The Lost Weekend'' and ''Sunset Boulevard''), and I think that he will definitely become one of my favorite directors. I'll begin by saying that I absolutely loved ''The Apartment''. I loved the way it was presented, I loved how it started in a funny, lighthearted manner but over the course of the film, it became a greatly thought-provoking, emotionally intense film. I loved the acting, especially the performances of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. It's a great film, and yes, one of the best films I have ever seen. 

The film starts with a voice-over with which our protagonist, C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) tells us about himself and the company in which he works. He works at a company where are there are more than thirty thousand employees. For this reason, when the office hours end, there is quite a ''traffic jam'' in the elevators. Baxter, however, does not have to fall victim to this elevator traffic jam, as he stays in the office, working for some more time before finally starting for his home. The reason? Is he workaholic? Well, no. Actually, he lets four of his superiors at the office use his apartment at the evening, for engaging in their extra-marital liaisons. Jack lets them use his apartment in return of promotion recommendations. He can only return to his apartment after his boss and girlfriend have left.

The first few scenes of the film deal with the wackiness of the situation. Baxter's neighbor can hear noises from his apartment every evening, leading him to think that he (Baxter) brings a different girl every night.  One of the first scenes in the film show that he has just returned to his apartment one evening and trying to get some rest, and then he receives a phone call from one of his office executives, asking for Jack's permission to use the apartment. Jack leaves his apartment and wanders around in the streets at the middle of the night. Whenever he wants to shift an appointment, he has to shift the appointments of the other three people as well, 
leaving him in a messy situation. But he has his strong ambitions, strong dreams, of getting promoted. Finally, after all the four executives recommend Baxter, the head of the company, Mr Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) promotes him; however, Sheldrake tells him that he knows what goes on in his apartment, and in return of the promotion, he asks for the permission to use the apartment. Baxter gives the key to his office, and in return, Sheldrake gives him a ticket for a play.
The first scene in which we see Fran and Baxter, our two protagonists, together

Baxter asks an elevator operator of his office, Fran (Shirley MacLaine) to accompany him to the play. During the first scenes with Fran, her behavior, her style, makes us think that she is a very happy-go-lucky, carefree young woman. Fran replies that she has a date with somebody, but promises to meet Baxter for the play. Baxter is delighted, while Fran goes to meet her date. We are surprised to see that Fran's date is none other than Mr Sheldrake; it is Fran with whom Mr Sheldrake wants to go to Baxter's apartment. We come to know that Mr Sheldrake and Fran had once started an affair, and Sheldrake had repeatedly promised her that he would divorce his wife, which he hasn't yet. We can see that Fran is deeply in love with Mr Sheldrake, and is greatly depressed by the fact that everything around her is so messy; that she is in love with a married man, who has obligations and duties towards his family, his wife, his children. Though Fran says that she has to meet somebody, Sheldrake persuade her to come with him, while  Baxter waits for Fran outside the theater. She never arrives. 

Miss Olson, a secretary of Sheldrake, tells Fran that Sheldrake has always been doing these things: he picks up girls, starts an affair with them, tells them that he would divorce his wife, which he never does. Fran is devastated to learn this. She knows that she is just being used by Sheldrake; yet she loves him so deeply. She becomes very depressed, tired of life. On the other hand, Baxter, who clearly loves Fran, gets to know that the woman with whom Sheldrake visited his apartment was none other than Fran. Baxter gets sad and shocked.

The film delves deep into the feelings of these two characters, Baxter and Fran. When the film started, I thought that it would be a light, funny film. During the first scene with Baxter and Fran together, where they talk about random things pleasantly, I thought that the film might be a cheerful, romantic one. How wrong was I. From the scene where Fran meets Sheldrake in the restaurant, the film definitely changes it's tone. We can see the situation in a more serious way. It's not funny. Nothing that goes on in this film is actually funny; the film actually deals with very serious issues. Baxter, on one hand, does all these things, risking his reputation (his neighbors thinks that he is the one who is having fun with different girls every evening), only for promotion. He is a lonely person, living a messed-up life. But then he falls in love with Fran, and this only adds to his depression when he comes to learn that Fran is having an affair with Sheldrake.

Fran, on the other hand, loves Sheldrake deeply, and when he learns about his history with women, this only makes her more depressed, tired of her life. She had been suffering from a long time, wondering why Sheldrake wanted to continue their relationship yet wasn't divorcing his wife. Fran and Baxter are both greatly troubled by loneliness, by depression; life is definitely not smooth for them. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine's performances are really unforgettable.

All the three Wilder films that I have watched so far deals with protagonists who are in messy, troubled situations. ''The Lost Weekend'' showed the protagonist having a strong alcohol addiction, dealing with his depression as he knows that this addiction is ruining his life and his career. ''Sunset Boulevard'' showed us a woman who is obsessed with the past, obsessed with her past fame, and the male protagonist who is manipulated by that woman; both of their lives were troubled, messy. And here, in ''The Apartment'', we have two characters, two extremely memorable characters, Fran and Baxter; life has not quite been smooth for them.

Is ''The Apartment'' actually meant as a comedy-drama? It deals with extremely dark, depressing situations but it has enough funny elements to make us laugh out loud.  ''The Apartment'' is a very touching, emotionally intense film. It does have lighthearted, funny elements scattered throughout, but ultimately, it is story dealing with the troubles, depression, feelings of the two protagonists. I have loved all the three Billy Wilder films that I have watched so far, and though I had loved ''Sunset Boulevard'' more than ''The Apartment'', these two films will definitely be two of my all-time favorite films.

5 out of 5

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