Mini Movie Review: The Apartment, 1960

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The Apartment turned out to be quite the surprise for me. For some reason, I thought this was a comedy. I feel like people always billed it to me as a classic comedy. While it does have its moments, this is much more a drama as far as I’m concerned. And a pretty good one.

I think the reason I found The Apartment to be so dramatic is that like many movies of its time, the men don’t treat women well in this at all. But unlike other movies of its time, it actually explores the consequences this has for these women. The movie doesn’t treat women poorly, the men in it do. And Wilder has an awareness of the damage that is being done. That was pretty refreshing to see, even when it did get played for some laughs.

Seeing Jack Lemmon at such a young age was an interesting experience for me – I grew up renting both the Grumpy Old Men movies over and over again, so in my mind Jack Lemmon is an old man. It was crazy hearing his younger voice in the opening voice-over and then seeing all his normal mannerisms, just on a younger self. And I think this was my first experience with Shirley MacLaine who was just fantastic in this. There are a lot of good supporting players here too, especially his neighbor, the doctor, who looks a bit like John C. Reilly.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Billy Wilder movie before, and I really liked the black and white photography in The Apartment. There’s one shot in particular, early on in the film, when Lemmon is leaving his apartment. Wilder sets the camera at the absolute perfect angle to make his stoop look as interesting as it possibly could. It’s a simple but beautiful shot, and it’s indicative of the great work Wilder does throughout the film.

I think I’ll likely come back to this film from time to time throughout my life and see how my opinion of it changes. I get the impression that with more life experience I may find more of the comedy here that people have always sold it on. Until then, The Apartment is a fine film that I definitely enjoyed and would generally recommend.

The Apartment scored: ★★★☆☆

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