People are shocked when they find out I haven't seen their favorite, classic, essential-addition-to-the-pop-cultural-canon film. So I made a list, and am working my way through. Join me as I watch your favorite movie for the first time.
THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS UPON WATCHING THE APARTMENT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2017:
To whomsoever put this on my list: I'm hoping you meant "The Apartment" (1960) starring Shirley MacLaine, and not "The Apartment" (1996) a rom-com starring Romane Bohringer.
"Script Continuity by May Wale" -- I love how in older films you sit through so many credits with an overture. Before you get to enjoy this film, you should know that the script will maintain its continuity, and that's thanks to May Wale. They want you to know that.
Billy Wilder is revealing a lot about his personality with how HUGE the font of his "Produced by/Directed by" title credits.
Who produced th - ?
Directed by who exact -
FONT SIZE 72.
And now a long monologue of exposition over black-and-white shots of New York City explaining the workplace and habits of our protagonist named Baxter.
This "Consolidated Life" insurance building looks exactly like Mad Men, which helps me believe it is accurate and real. I understand it is v. backwards of me to think The Apartment checks out because it corresponds to Mad Men, as opposed to realizing Mad Men checks out because it relied on source material like The Apartment.
The "Apartment" in question is described as "nothing special" and is also "half a mile away from Central Park" and is also "$85 a month, but used to be $80"!!!!!!!
EXPOSITION BREAK: As established earlier in the giant monologue of exposition over black-and-white shots of New York City, Baxter makes $100 a week at Consolidated Life. Which means his rent is 21% of his monthly income. That's an insanely low cost of living, isn't it?
GOOGLE BREAK: According to google, rent should be about 30% of your monthly income.
MATH BREAK: So this means that if one of my friends is paying $1,500 a month for their rent in NY, then they'd need to make around $7,000 a month/$84k a year in order for their rent to be 21% of their life like Baxter's.
EXISTENTIAL BREAK: How are any of my artist friends alive in New York?!?!?!?! Besides the independently wealthy ones??!? I know y'all aren't making that much?!?!? Blink twice if you need me to come rescue you?!?!?!
We meet nosy neighbor of no consequence, but she is walking an ADORABLE small dog in a raincoat who I hope finds a reason to come back on-screen many times.
So the main thing happening at the top here is that we learn the executives at ConLife use Baxter's apartment for their illicit affairs, and in exchange they promote him.
Having an affair seems to very much rely on logistics and planning. Does not seem spontaneous or sexy whatsoever.
Am learning that I do not have the skill-set required to either have a mistress or become a mistress, as it demands detail orientation and a LOT of calling back and forth and confirming second and third locations and coordinating calendars.
(Perhaps this is why so many of these execs have affairs with the secretaries? Their administrative gifts? Do not hold me to that theory, just thinking out loud.)
Baxter sneaking around his neighbors so they don't know he lets others use his apartment for their affairs reminds me of half a dozen clandestine Airbnb hosts who have asked me to be vague if their neighbors ask who I am and why I have so much luggage.
Baxter prepares a frozen dinner, which I think is supposed to be the universal film cipher for a sad and lonely existence, but I am not here to judge. It looks delicious and exactly like this one thing I get from Trader Joe's.
Man I love this wallpaper. Bring back wallpaper!
Omg the tile in his kitchen!!
His built-in bookshelves!!
Would definitely watch a movie where you just get to hang out with people as they walk around their apartments from prior decades.
Baxter is watching a bunch of classic films on his tv, can I cross those off my list too?
Baxter is getting frustrated by how many commercials play before Grand Hotel, and that feels so quaint and cozy. Remember when we hated commercials, and didn't just assume we would have to watch them in order to participate with every single kind of content or media we like?
Baxter can't say no to his executive coworkers having affairs, and needs to work on boundaries.
Executive coworkers can't say no to their mistresses, and also need to work on boundaries.
One of the Executive Affair guys emerges from the cab with four full cocktails in his hand! What a time to have been alive.
Why did we all stop wearing hats? Was that an important moment in society? What's the sartorial etymology of our hatlessness?
Shirley MacLaine is a BABY. A bright-eyed, beautiful baby. She is so so so lovely.
Her performance reminds me so much of Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly in You Got Mail. Maybe it's their cute noses and sort of grown-up, charming baby voices.
Look at this rack for all their hats and their overcoats! Hats were so much a part of businessmen fashion that they had their own racks! Someone figure out what happened to our hats. Make a Netflix doc or, let's be real, a podcast.
Look at that Rolodex!! It is really a shame Carson and Rolodexes didn't cross paths in human history, she would have such a beautifully color-coded one.
Okay so apparently giant open floor plan bull-pen workspaces aren't a millennial startup thing, because that's the set up here at this highly conventional corporation in the 60s.
Wood paneling! It's all so Mad Men! I'm looking around for a sassy lady Joan, running things behind the scenes.
I love this Executive Affair guy who really, really can't reschedule this Thursday night with his mistress, because he already ordered her birthday cake. How reasonable. You actually can't cancel a birthday cake with less than 24 hour notice, I worked at a bakery and it's not cool.
"Elevator girl" is a lovely occupation that could only exist in the 60s. #jobsofthesixties
It is eery to see an elevator full of people just looking forward or talking. No phones!
We meet head Boss-Man, who has tickets tonight to see the Music Man! How great to see the original Music Man!
" I looked up your insurance card, I know your height and your weight and your social security number" -- two things:
1) This is supposed to be charming, so did they not have fraud then? Aren't we supposed to be v. protective of our social security numbers?
2) Now that I mention it -- can anyone tell me why we have to be so protective of our social security numbers? I just have been because it seemed like The Thing To Do.
2) This is further evidence that everyone stocked up on/stalked up on information about the person they were interested in even before social media.
GASP. Shirley the elevator girl is having an affair with Boss-Man.
Would be fun to just assume you can order a strawberry daiquiri at a Chinese restaurant/bar in Midtown like it ain't no thang. I so often just panic-order a gin & tonic if I can't get to a proper menu in time.
Shirley is breaking my heart. BREAKING MY HEART. She has such MOXIE and Boss-Man is sucking the life out of her.
Sneaky secretary catches Shirley and Bossman! SHE'S THE JOAN!! And she has an exceptional leopard hat.
Guy who hand-paints executives' names on their doors! #jobsofthe60s
All of these coworkers of different power levels are just making out at the company Christmas party. I love love, but I love secure HR policies more.
Baxter shows her Mr. Boss-Man's Christmas card, and I am charmed that people did staged family photo holiday cards back then, too! UTTERLY UN-CHARMED BY MR. BOSS-MAN THOUGH.
"If you're in love with a married man don't wear mascara." What a great line.
The resuscitation of Fran after she takes all those sleeping pills is surprisingly moving. They take their time with this, Dr. Dreyfus and Baxter walking her back and forth across the apartment.
Oh, sweet Baxter. Love is hanging up someone's crumpled dress while they're sleeping off a horrible incident.
Now he's trying to cook for her. Baxter's love language is definitely "acts of service".
Dr. Dreyfus' wife, Mrs. Dreyfus, is the real hero of this film. She has misinformation, but with that misinformation she has she decided to STAGE AN INTERVENTION and EXPLAIN TO THIS FELLA THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO HIS ACTIONS and MAKE SOME SOUP for this poor girl. May we all have women in our lives who stage soup-erventions and love us well.
Sassy secretary called Mr. Boss-Man's wife!!! And she looked fly as hell in her skirt-suit while doing so.
SHE. IS. THE. JOAN.
This whole sequence of the film where Baxter and Shirley sharing the apartment while she recovers is mesmerizing, it keeps turning in new, lovely directions.
Baxter sharing the time he almost shot himself from a broken heart to make Shirley feel less alone, and also trying to make her laugh -- it's so disarming. I don't know what to do with it. On one hand, I suppose they're kind of accepting or trivializing suicide attempts which is not great. But in another way, they're completely legitimizing what a broken heart will do to a person. A sort of nod, a "yes, of course you feel as though you will die of a broken heart." It's interesting to watch two characters who understand heartbreak to be truly tragic in a practical way, like in Shakespeare or Sophocles, you might die from it.
I am too engrossed and not taking notes, but these are lines that made me make that involuntary "huh" sound I make when lines are just right for a situation or sit just right on an actor:
"Why do people have to love people anyway."
"That's just the way it crumbles. Cookie-wise."
"Some people take and some people get took. And they know they're getting took but there's nothing they can do about it."
"The doctor said it takes 48 hours to get that stuff out of your system." / "How long does it take to get someone you're stuck on out of your system? If only they'd invent some kind of pump for that."
"Did you hear me Ms. Kubelik? I absolutely adore you." / "Shut up and deal."
Okay so everything worked out in the end! Deep exhale. Loneliness doesn't last forever and good guys can get the girl and girls going through hard times can pick good guys.
LOVE FINDS YOU IN THE END.
(Unless you are one of the off-screen wives of these comedically philandering husbands, but let's not think too hard on that.)
I realize now that I kept wanting to patronize this film, to sort of talk down to it or watch it benevolently, but it just kept disarming or charming or surprising me. How lovely to have that experience!