The Apartment ★★★★★

From Double Indemnity to his very last masterpiece, The Apartment, Billy Wilder remains one of the most potent figures of the mid 40s to early 60s. The director of many undebatable classics that have defined motion pictures, The Apartment is Wilder's most successful film at the Academy Awards and ironically, most controversial for topping Hitchcock's Psycho. It has become unfortunate that many simply address The Apartment as "that film that beat Psycho" rather than the masterpiece that it is. The Apartment is genuinely funny, thought-provoking, emotionally compelling and provides a very notable and severe critique on society.

C.C Baxter lives a seemingly ordinary life, one devoid of any direction or aim in life. Working on an ordinary floor at an insurance company, Baxter allows his four managers to borrow his apartment for romantic purposes during specific nights in order to get promoted at work. He keeps his crush on elevator operator Fran Kubelick a secret and the closer he gets to her, the more complicated things get.

The Apartment may be classified as a comedy first, and a drama second. However, as wonderful as the comedic beats are, The Apartment is truly one of the most powerful and most affecting dramas ever created. Effortlessly switching and blending two polar opposite genres with seemless ease and naturalness, The Apartment features a perfect critique of a severely flawed society. Wilder's writing is utterly flawless, for he can truly be described as the greatest screenwriter, and The Apartment can honestly be considered to be the greatest script ever written (or any other Wilder masterpiece for that matter).

In Wilder's writing are elements of Ibsen's work - specifically his A Doll's House - with a similar deconstruction and re-evaluation of society. Baxter's co-workers/executives are condemned for their greediness, shallowness and heartless demoralizing of the film's protagonist. The film opens with Baxter working until late, explaining to the viewer that he cannot return to his apartment. Once he is finally "priviledged" enough to go back to his own apartment and he manages to eat and get some sleep, he is interrupted by another one of his bosses, who demands Baxter give his apartment for his selfish romantic purposes. Upper class society, or in Wilder's case, upper class figures of work, are condemned as superficial beings with no remorse nor pity of others. Even Baxter himself is criticized for his self-sacrifial acts to get promoted and climb up the social ladder. Then, the film introduces elements of marriage (again present in Ibsen's work), centrally in the relationship between Ms. Kubelik and Baxter, whose love for her feels both natural and loyal.  MacMurray's Sheldrake, is again, at his core, a shallow cheating husband and once again, a representation of upper class society. These elements of social critique are perfectly blended with humour and drama to create a riveting and unforgettable masterpiece. It is, without a doubt, Wilder's most dramatic work.

Wilder is truly cinema's greatest screenwriter. From Double Indemnity to The Apartment, his screenplays truly stand the test of time - a testament to Wilder's phenomenal ability to write such engrossing screenplays - that not even the greatest Hitchcock masterpieces have as perfect screenplays as Wilder's work. Yet, his direction is often more overlooked and equally perfect. The Apartment is simply wonderfully and passionately directed, with its cast delivering superb performances. Jack Lemmon, the Cary Grant/Jimmy Stewart of the late 50s (Some Like it Hot) and early 60s, is absolutely phenomenal and perfectly casted as Baxter. He is likeable and effortlessly expresses the complications of his character, making him a very relatable protagonist for the audience. C.C Baxter may be Wilder's most emotionally centered and relatable protagonist since the days of Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend. Shirley MacLaine is also superb as Fran Kubelik and the chemistry that she and Lemmon share is simply indescribable, making for one of the greatest love stories of all time.

The Apartment is certainly a severe social critique but Wilder's masterpiece is not without humour and charm. With one of cinema's all time great screenplays and needless to say, superb performances by a truly wonderful cast, The Apartment ranks high up on any 'greatest films of all time' list. Though it may have developed controversy for topping Hitchcock's genre defining Psycho at the Academy Awards, The Apartment is truly deserving of its praise and it remains a pity that it was released in a year that featured the release of a cult classic such as Psycho. 

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