In the mood for lighter fare today I opted for one of the few romantic comedies on my list of things to see. I was surprised when it quickly dove headfirst into issues of adultery, debauchery, depression, misogyny and suicide attempts. All in a days work in the late 50s/early 60s for a woman, I guess.
The film was surprisingly dark, far more so than I’d bargained for. That being said it handled the heavier subject matter in a shockingly light manner, simply skimming over the surface of the greater issues at play. The whole time the movie was playing through I kept thinking of the song by The Crystals He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) about a woman who’s so brainwashed that she believes it’s love when your bo beats you. He wouldn’t do it if he didn’t really care, after all. So much of what Shirley MacLaine puts herself through in this film reminded me of that song, except she’s given the facade of a stronger female figure. She is still, however, crippled by a man who doesn’t want her.
Fred MacMurray plays the despicable Jeff D. Sheldrake to perfection. He is so loathsome a human being I wanted to throw things at the screen. MacLaine is adorable, and from her very first scene on screen she’s positively delightful. The frustration sets in, however, when a woman who seems so on the ball, so sharp and full of gumption, caves to the crooning lies of such an odious man as Sheldrake, all the while passing up the true gem of a human being, C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemon).
Lemon is a gem, as always. I will always love his graceful comedic timing and his kind, touching eyes. No matter who he plays you cannot help but love him, even in his later roles such as in JFK: a fairly minimal character, yet still loveable. Though loveable, his character is equally if not more frustrating than that of MacLaine. Clearly held under the thumbs of his higher-ups, you still wish you could fight his battles for him. He’s like a wounded puppy, you just want to swoop in and protect.
All in all it’s an adorable film, with some really wonderful moments throughout. The chemistry between MacLaine and Lemon is wonderful, and it’s truly a treat to see such seasoned professionals dominate the screen as they do. I’m not horribly floored by The Apartment, and I’m not entirely sure why. For its genre it’s very sophisticated, and the cinematography is surprisingly well done. However, it still felt almost too thin to me to be on this list (the IMDB top 250). It doesn’t strike me as a truly remarkable film, however classic it may be. It’s lovely, and that’s about all I can say about it.
This post was originally published on my tumblr on December 4, 2011.