Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"The Apartment" (1960)

Often considered one of the best “romantic comedies,” Billy Wilder’s 1960 film is indeed amongst the best of the genre because it doesn’t really fit. It is not the simple-minded story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back (or for today’s more common formula, reverse the gender roles), but instead is an almost depressing story of the reality of society’s idea of romance.

In a strange world of 1960s New York, where it seems every man is cheating on his wife, Jack Lemon plays Calvin Baxter, a man who can’t say no. He is therefor used and abused by all his superiors who adopt his apartment as a rendezvous point. Baxter thinks that this will eventually help him climb the corporate ladder. Where love is concerned, he is more idealistic than the other men. He is single but uninvolved. He likes one of the elevator operators in the building, Fran Kubelik, and he is shy but gentlemanly in his pursuit of her.

Fran, on the other hand, is the newest visitor to his apartment. When Baxter’s big boss, Sheldrake, learns of the arrangement he forces Lemon to change things so that only he is able to take a mistress there, and it just so happens that his mistress is Fran. She is not your typical mistress though. She was unaware that the boss was married when she fell in love and has broken things off when she realized he was not going to leave his wife.

However, things start up again when Sheldrake lies about his intentions and takes her to Lemon’s flat. One thing leads to another and Fran realizes that she is simply a plaything and tries to commit suicide in Baxter’s apartment. Baxter finds her, saves her, and nurses her back to health. For that, he earns a huge promotion but is willing to throw everything away when he too comes to his senses. Seeing he is merely being used, he quits to pursue a better career elsewhere.

When Fran hears of Baxter’s action, she realizes at once that he does indeed care for her, and that she too is not showing enough pride in herself. The ending scene is not the typical “happily ever after” scene, but there is potential.

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