Produced and Directed by Billy Wilder
A lowly employee at an insurance company C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) loans his apartment out to the assorted philandering male executives above him in the hopes of securing a promotion. After one of the girls taken there attempts suicide he nurses her back to health and begins to change how he views himself and what he is doing.
On IMDb this movie is listed as “comedy, drama, romance.” And to be honest the plot pretty much flows in that order. The premise is played for laughs at the beginning of the film, The opening narration certainly indicates you will be getting a lighthearted comedy. Baxter has so loaned his apartment out that he cannot even go into it when he wants and at times can’t spend the night there when he wants if he wants to keep his job or get promoted. And then Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) attempts suicide with sleeping pills in his apartment. And what had started out looking like a comedy with some serious moments turned into a drama. And then as he cares for her and the flicker of attraction that he had from earlier grows into love the film becomes a romance. A little one-sided at times but it is a romance.
The film is a classic and despite its premise it is a weird kind of sweet. While the majority of the characters are scumbags the way the feelings of C.C. Baxter begin to grow for Fran is sweet. His love for her makes him a better person. He begins to see what he has become and realizes he needs to be better.
No matter how many dramas I see with Fred McMurray I am always shocked. I am stuck on the characters he played in Flubber as well as My Three Sons. That was my first exposure to him. But here he is a cheating husband trying to have his cake and eat it too. And he is such a jerk. He keeps trying to bribe Baxter by dangling promotions and blackmailing him with the potential of losing his job all the while cheating on his wife with a woman he is leading along. I actually hated his character in this movie on a personal level.
Shirley MacLaine is wonderful as the lost and slightly broken Fran who is simply seeking love. Her character is a much better character than in most modern characters in a similar light. There is more depth here. That credit goes to MacLaine. She turned in a nuanced performance.
As I stated before the movie has three different tones in it and the acting is appropriate for each tone of the movie. Billy Wilder was a genius and this movie is another example of that genius. Not many directors can essentially put together three different movies and make it into one seamless story, but Billy Wilder did just that. And even as the movie changes tone it keeps elements of the other previous tone(s).
The Apartment ends as a love story where the hero has a broken heart. But it is also a love story where the “hero” has been redeemed by love and has grown into a decent human being. And it even ends on a hopeful note with the beginning of a relationship for a lonely man and an emotionally wounded woman.
This is a great story with a very fine acting and an excellent script. It is a genuine classic film. If you have not seen it to treat yourself.