A man tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue. [imdb]
Nominated for 10 Oscars:
Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Billy Wilder (WINNER)
Best Actor: Jack Lemmon
Best Actress: Shirley MacLaine
Best Supporting Actor: Jack Kruschen
Best Original Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Many seem to believe that the Best Picture winner for 1960 is one of the best films to get such a distinction in this category, one of Billy Wilder's best films and an overall romantic classic. Allow me to disagree with the majority this time. It was not an issue of high expectations: while I had never seen it before, I gave it a fair shot, and I must say I was really underwhelmed by it. While the film has plenty of OK & good moments, it never really shines.
I guess the highest achievement of the film stands in the acting of the two leads, and they're both good and they both do their best, but the screenplay does offer its limitation. Wasn't convinced at first about Jack Lemmon performance, but he gets better and better as soon as we find out a bit about the character's background. In the end, it's a touching performance, worthy of a nomination, but not Lemmon's best.
Shirley MacLaine is sweeter than ever, and likeable, and charming, and nails the scenes where she has to cry or pose as a victim. But the role never becomes challenging enough. She lost the Oscar to Elizabeth Taylor's controversial performance in BUtterfield 8, and while I wouldn't dare to compare the performances, I can't really say Shirley was robbed of the Oscar. Just like in Lemmon's case, it's a good performance, but far from her best (which I guess came a year later under the name of The Children's Hour and was completely ignored by the Academy).
Strangely enough, I guess my biggest issue is with the screenplay. Billy Wilder certainly did not win Oscars for his best work - while this screenplay is quite creative at times, it just doesn't... sparkle. It feels flat, especially in the first half, not to mention the hard to ignore misogynistic tone. Sure, The Apartment gets better in the last 15-20 minutes, but it's not enough to change the film around. I consider it an ok romantic comedy, but it lacks the excitement factor.
My rating for the film: 6.5/10. Nominations for Cinematography, Art Direction (win!), Sound & Supporting Actor make no sense. Billy Wilder's directing win (in competition with Hitchcock's Psycho) feels quite undeserved. My Best Picture series will continue.