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The Apartment (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on May 27, 2011

So… I have the world’s dumbest reason for not liking this movie.  I mean, I wasn’t blown away by it to begin with (some 10 years ago), but I developed an irrational animosity towards it when I discovered it was the favorite of someone on the internet whose opinions I couldn’t stand.  He was the most narrow-minded dipshit who could only appreciate film on the level of entertainment.  Anything the slightest bit off the beaten path was the biggest pile of shit to him and pretty much all he liked were comedies (and, to his credit, Hitchcock).  So over time I grew to resent this movie more and more, mostly just to spite this asshat.  But now I’ve decided to quit being a schmuck about it and re-evaluate The Apartment (besides, he doesn’t post on that forum anymore, and for that matter, neither do I).

And boy, am I glad I did.  One thing I really love is the handling of ancillary characters.  Margie is not simply a bar floozy, but has a sad story of her own and feels like a fleshed-out character.  Sheldrake’s secretary isn’t just a spiteful bitch, she’s got her own heartbreak to deal with.  And in lesser hands, Dr. Dreyfuss would just be stuffy and judgmental, but his attitude towards Baxter is a fully-realized mixture of contempt, compassion and pity.  Even the brief appearance by Mrs. Dreyfuss starts out as caricature but quickly becomes more human.  And of course the main characters are equally well-rounded.  Maclaine is adorably tragic, or tragically adorable, and Lemmon is neither merely a hapless schnook nor merely a toadying apple-polisher.  These are rich, relatable characters with both charms and imperfections.  And maybe that sums up the movie as a whole: it’s a film of wonderful balance.  It can turn from joy to sadness, cynicism to hope at the drop of a hat and it all happens so effortlessly, so naturally.  The attempted suicide (and recovery) is a brilliant scene, simultaneously witty and harrowing, it just punches you right in the gut.  The script is sparkling, I especially enjoyed the clever use of callbacks.  And the visual stylization is glorious as well, from the indifferent corporate monolith, to the tacky Chinese restaurant, and of course Baxter’s apartment, all lit beautifully and shot with intelligence.  While this might not be a movie I would want to watch as frequently as Double Indemnity, it’s quickly jumped from my 13th favorite Wilder to my 2nd.  Rating: 9


One Response to “The Apartment (rewatch)”

  1. […] 17. The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder) […]

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