C.C. Baxter is an insurance office busy-body working in New York. He lives in an apartment on the Upper West Side of the city, which he allows 4 of his office managers to use for their affairs. C.C. hopes to influence their favor to climb the corporate ladder, but though the managers mildy recommend him, they don’t respect him and they make it very clear that their kindness towards him starts and stops with his apartment. When Jeff Sheldrake, the director in charge of promotions, gets wind of C.C.’s scheme, he insists on using the apartment as well. Little does C.C. know that Sheldrake is using his apartment to get back in the good graces of Ms. Kubelik, a elevator operator for whom C.C. is falling for; little does Fran know that Sheldrake promises to divorce his wife and change for the better are hollow and false.
Though “The Apartment” contains its fair share of melancholic moments, it’s mostly a dark comedy, filled with jokes about cheating and suicide. But even at the film’s funniest, screenwriters I.A.L. Diamond and Wilder never shy away from the gross realities of human nature, such as the awful feeling of being rejected by someone you love, or the belief that death is the only way out of an emotional hardship. Most importantly, “The Apartment” perfectly captures the casual dehumanization of modern corporate culture.
But Sheldrake and Kubelik are the two main love interests of the film, even when they’re making life difficult for themselves. They’re both clearly stuck in a rut, hoping that easy fixes and shortcuts will help dig them out of their own holes, but knowing it won’t be enough. It’s why scenes like Fran’s suicide attempt or C.C. and Fran beginning their rummy game still contains quite a bit of distress. It knows that there are no guarantees in life, but the least you can do is put your head down and work through the tough times in life.
The story takes place during the holidays, when the city is at its most joyous. Yet this is a brutal time if you have no loved one or family to spend it with. Thus, the melancholy of the season for the lonely, and the city’s cold and wet streets, this can be seen as Baxter aimlessly walks through the night. Add to that Wilder’s impeccable framing, focusing on the characters emotional isolation. Baxter’s dream is a high seated job, so he perhaps one day can take care of a family of his own just like Mr. Sheldrake. Fran, on the other hand, is seeking security in the form of marriage, however she is digging herself into a rut in believing that Sheldrake would indeed leave his current spouse as he often tells her in an attempt to console her. You might not think a movie about a man who lends his apartment to the married coworkers of his office as a place for their secret affairs would make a particularly enjoyable or morally presentable show, especially when the C.C. uses this to advance his career. But under Wilder’s expert script writing, producing and directing of “The Apartment” these themes run together into a very cynical, yet even sentimental film.
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