Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Romantic Comedy Classic

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Thursday Romantic Comedy Classic. I’m taking a course called The Romantic Comedy where we’re charting the history and development of romantic comedies from the 1920s to the present. We’ll be watching some pretty iconic films, some of which I haven’t seen before. Each week, I’ll be providing a short review of one romantic comedy classic from the annals of history.

The Apartment
Directed by Billy Wilder
Released June 15, 1960

The first and only Billy Wilder film of the course is his classic Best Picture winner, which is a wonderful and pleasant movie. Jack Lemmon stars as the subdued and mild-mannered C.C. Baxter, a low-level employee at an insurance company who’s desperate for a good night’s sleep but finds it impossible since he’s made an arrangement with higher-ups in his company who have the privilege of using his apartment for their extramarital affairs in exchange for giving him good recommendations to move up in the company. Much of the comedy comes from Lemmon’s hopeless inability to stand up for himself, and his continuous acceptance of his unfortunate situation is simply entertaining. What gives the movie a true heart is the arrival of Shirley MacLaine as Fran Kubelik, a flirtatious, charming, reserved elevator girl who sparks a lovely interaction with Lemmon’s Baxter. MacLaine and Lemmon make for a fabulous duo, and their subtly-realized chemistry is delightful. The film has a superbly sedated feel, which helps add to the desperation of Baxter’s housing problem and the inescapability of his situation. Lemmon’s leading performance is perfectly matched with the tendency of his superiors to talk down to him as if he exists only for his service to them. There’s something terrific about his ability to become easily flabbergasted and then simply back down, and MacLaine’s easygoing, optimistic attitude helps turn this story from a tragedy into a comedy, and a splendid one at that.


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