I seriously doubt that anyone would consider a movie, which shows the story about a man, who lends his own apartment to his married, high-positioned co-workers as a secret place for their romance affair to be precisely appealing or considerably interesting. However, because of a masterful touch of the great Billy Wilder The Apartment comes as a thoroughly witty, enormously funny, plainly entertaining and deeply heartwarming film that truly deserves all of the Oscar statues that it received in 1961.
In one of his most memorable roles (just after the jolly comedy Some Like It Hot), Jack Lemmon plays a sympathetic, innocent and a bit light-hearted fellow named C. C. Baxter. In order to even think about advancing in his job he starts a rather risky ‘business’, and passes around the key to his peaceful and cozy apartment to all the insatiable cheating wolves working at the office. They take advantage of the situation very quickly. When one of the executives demands the key, Baxter has to leave his cozy couch right away, naturally taking into account the attractive possibilities of an upcoming promotion. To add yet another element of ridiculousness, all of the neighbors (especially the doctor living next door) see him as an emotionless womanizer, who spends each night with another (un)lucky girl. And very soon, he starts thinking about a love affair of his own. The object of Baxter’s interest is an elevator girl, who, as he quickly finds out, is using the same exact apartment with the head of the firm. More trouble arises, when this pretty woman named Fran (Shirley MacLaine) stays there after an unsuccessful meeting with Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), takes too much sleeping pills and tries to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. This strictly ironic sequence adds an amusing twist to one controversial topic – the inhumane treatment of hard-working girls by their male employers. As for the worrying attempts at waking the girl up – Billy Wilder delivers those tense scenes in the most clever, delicate and purposely funny manner. With the help of the doctor, Baxter finally manages to rescue Fran and keeps her at the apartment until she is able to fully recover. In the process, he realizes that true love and righteousness should always stay in front of work-related problems and money.
With that seemingly trivial message, it’s probably not hard to see how the movie will go. But it serves its purpose, offering one of the most precious happy endings in the history of movies.
All of the given performances are splendid, lively and truly convincing. Especially Shirley MacLaine shines as this naive, yet warm and hearty girl, who up until the end isn’t sure what she really wants out of life. I must say that her smile made me smile every time. Jack Lemmon shows his genius comedic skills. Fred MacMurray is perfect as the home-wrecking boss, and Jack Kruschen is a nice addition as the amusing and helpful doctor.
There are so many parts that account for the greatness of this production: the ingenious and scrupulous directing, a hypnotizing storyline, authentic characters, joyful music, and a huge amount of situational gags among other things. Highly recommended.