This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Anchor Rancor’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Secret Cinema round 19
My favorite Billy Wilder so far by a long shot. At first I really thought it was shaping up to be a "isn't toxic masculine womanizing at the workplace funny?" type deal, even our protagonist had some iffy habits in that regard. And look, that could be just how things were then time-wise, I was enjoying it and could deal with that even if it was a bummer.
Turns out, however, that I had far too little faith in Wilder, because he executed one of the most well done dramatic tonal shifts I've ever seen. This really tackles the whole concept head on, and showcases the effects and consequences the actions of these people have. Maybe I'm looking into it too much, but his past scripts make me pretty confident that Wilder knows what he's doing. Yes it's a love story in the end, and yes it's satisfying to see how it plays out, but not for the usual reasons. Fran recovers and finally gathers the strength to get out from under Sheldrake, and Baxter grows up and removes himself from the toxic environment at work and home. And yes, he wins her over in the end, but he's not portrayed to be some hero or to have committed some Herculean act of selflessness. His redemption comes from just being a human being.
I love Jack Lemon and he's fantastic here, but Shirley MacLaine is absolutely phenomenal. She carries the emotional core of this beautifully, and she really sells the anguish and self-hatred Fran gets put through. Her line about the broken mirror packs such a punch. I believe this movie also features bests from Wilder in every technical aspect. The cinematography and direction are crisp, the script is funny and incisive, and it's got a nice score too. So glad this got picked for me.
(I guess I have to spoiler tag this now)