51. 'The Apartment' (1960)
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I love "The Apartment" because it's weird. If I had to force the film into a
genre, I guess it would be romantic comedy. But I can't think of another
romantic comedy where the female lead tries to kill herself. I haven't seen a Katherine Heigl movie in a while though, so I
can't be 100% sure. Nearly every character in "The Apartment" commits, aids or
abets adultery. Most of the men are sex-crazed pigs. Every woman is a drunken
floozy. These are not the kind of people you expect to find in a lighthearted
romp about finding true love.
Before the modern movie ratings system a collection of rules called the Hays
Code dictated what was and wasn't appropriate to show onscreen. Billy Wilder was
a master at getting adult material past Hollywood censors. His light touch with
lurid content is what gives "The Apartment" its magic. Under his careful hand,
even the wildest behavior seems charming.
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A trio of terrific performances anchor the film. Fred MacMurray plays against
type as the lecherous older executive gunning after young flesh. Shirley MacLaine brings real humanity to a part
that a lesser actress would dissipate into a series of quirks. But the movie
belongs to Jack Lemmon. Observing his transformation from
unassuming underling to confident leading man is the movie's true joy. Nice guys
finish first in "The Apartment," and it's a delight to watch. — Frank Paiva
(Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine in "The Apartment"/©SNAP/Rex