Ep 11: The Apartment

A funny thing happened after we watched this movie: We decided we needed a sixth rating, NRC for Not at Romantic Comedy because we don’t care what the AFI says, this is not a romantic comedy. Also, the podcast? Really odd because we didn’t know what the hell to do with this. Because it’s not a romantic comedy. Apologizing in advance for the two of us saying, “WTF?” for half an hour. Get the podcast: Listen here at PopD | Go to iTunes

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Lucy says: NRC

Jenny says: NRC

The Popcorn Poll says:NRC

Movie Info:

Story: C.C.Baxter is on his way to the top, helped along the way by his boss, who borrows his apartment to meet his mistress. Then C.C. finds out who the mistress is. Trouble ensues. Release Date: September 16, 1960 Director: Billy Wilder Writers: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond. More info at IMDb.

24 responses to “Ep 11: The Apartment”

  1. Yeah. Not a comedy. Not a romance. And it had good moments but the pacing was HORRIBLE to me. And I wanted to smack C.C. upside the head.

    I’m 99% sure this movie came before Irma LaDouce (which I have not seen). I remember something on the bonus features mentioning The Apartment was the first time for the Lemmon/MacLaine pairing.

    I think Some Like It Hot got eliminated from the list because people decided the romance wasn’t central enough to the plot. It’s kind of a buddy movie in drag. I do love that movie, tho. 🙂

    I think my favorite MacLaine movie in Two Mules for Sister Sara. Hilarious movie. Romantic too–in a very weird way…

  2. Oh, and regarding the question from the podcast of whether they’re “together” together at the end he says something like, “What about Mr. Sheldrake?” and she says, “We’ll send him a fruitcake.” Which relates back to that story he told about the girl he was in love with who married someone else and she sends him a fruit cake every year.

    So, while I don’t find the last line very satisfying, I think the implication is very strong that Miss Kubilik and CC are going to get married at the end.

  3. Oh, Two Mules for Sister Sara! Thats my idea of a romance. The last section is a bit daft though. You get the big reveal and then the film keeps going. I still love it.

  4. @Romney,
    But if it stopped Sister Sara at the Reveal you wouldn’t get the line “Who the hell wants to see you dressed?!” Which is personally one of my favorite parts. 🙂

  5. My first comment on these threads…my sister got me started on the Popcorn dialogues about five weeks ago, and I finally caught up this weekend. I hope its okay if I join the conversation.

    I thought the Apartment was excellent, but it was definitely not a romantic comedy. I was struck by how much it reflected its period; the toxic male playboy culture represented there was new to the 60s, with its drinking, the infidelity, the objectification of women, the old boy clubiness. (I have been interested to see how men in the office morph from His Girl Friday to Desk Set to the Apartment.) I understood the story in that context. It’s not a romance, it’s a morality play about growing up. At the start, CC Baxter is an inexperienced adolescent metaphorically (he’s a variant of Luke Skywalker.) At the end, through his love for Fran, he knows what he wants and has achieved manhood (stood up for himself, made decisions, took risks, his girl at his side.) He’s finally launched. Both he and Fran have decided against the degrading playboy life offered by Sheldrake and the chorus of perps. Both choose family life with stability, understanding, love, faithfulness, & care for one another. So it is definitely happily ever after for them..

  6. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see your rating because I was just watching it (it came late) and I kept thinking “wtf?”. I know the 60s were a time of free love and men cheating on their wives and expecting them to suck it up (which most did because their options were still limited at the time) but I had to wonder if people seeing this movie when it came out thought it was funny. So, I know it was kind of real life but as my step-father has been known to say, “bowel movements are real life but that doesn’t mean I want to watch it”. Kind of applies to this movie for me. I didn’t particularly care for it and didn’t think it fit into the romantic comedy category at all.

  7. I just listened to the podcast on the train into work and it’s interesting about the “why does this come up on lists of rom coms thing”. I recently did the Michael Hauge/Steve Kaplan two day workshop on romantic comedies with a group of romance writers and I think we all walked away thinking “Hollywood has a much much broader definition of rom com than we do”.

    Michael Hauge’s stuff was brilliant and he used movies as examples that are things that I do think are rom coms like Tootsie and Notting Hill and when Harry met Sally etc. But there were also things like There’s something about Mary (which for me the only purpose of the romance thread in that kind of movie is to give the nerdy hero a goal to pursue while they make all their gross out jokes and to some degree to be complete male wish fulfillment – not that there’s anything wrong with that as a lot of rom coms are complete female wish fulfillment).

    I came away thinking that as long as there’s a hint of romance and some comedy Hollywood will tag it as rom com. Unlike romance writers will say there has to be a romance that works and some funny bits. At the end of the two days, they showed what they both said was one of the best rom coms of recent times and the movie they picked was 40 Year Old Virgin. At which point most of us romance writers went “WTF?”. I’ll admit the last few years haven’t been exactly rom com gold movie wise but there have been some good rom coms and if not, go back to a good class rom com and show why it works.

    Now, I will give you that 40 Yr Old is funny (leaving aside how many women may be turned off by gross out/raunch comedy because that’s all personal taste and boundaries but I would argue that gross out humour is generally not what women want in a love story lol) and yes, the hero arcs and there’s a romance which has some sweet moments but the heroine doesn’t change and there’s really no reason she’d fall for him and I didn’t believe the romance really.

    So for me as a romance writer, it’s not a rom com. Nor was it for most of the women I were with (most of whom didn’t stay because they really don’t like that sort of humor and there were many other women who left too) But for screenwriters, it was. Movies think differently and I think Lucy made a good point about marketing. Hollywood I think, thinks women don’t go to the movies as much, so will market films as rom coms to try and get us there. Instead of making actual rom coms that would get us there in the first place!

  8. Hi Mel,

    Did you or any of the women voice your disagreement with the men who said 40 year old virgin was a great rom com? I hope so!

  9. I think you’ve got it, Mel. One of the reason Hollywood does so few good romcoms is that they don’t understand what romcom means to women viewers which is odd since those are the viewers they are ostensibly trying to hit. I was worried for awhile that our definition was too narrow but on second thought, I’m glad it’s narrow. It needs to be specific if we’re going to pinpoint what works.

  10. I would argue that “40 Year Old Virgin” WAS a rom-com, but that it was so male-oriented that to most female romance novel readers, aka us, it doesn’t read as rom-com. Does that make sense? If you swapped the lead roles, would that make it more of a rom-com? Because it was really HIS movie, not hers. Because I can see it as a rom-com if the female was the lead instead of the male.

  11. Yes, someone politely expressed the feelings of the group afterwards. During, well, it’s their seminar and they can show what the heck they want and they were doing it as screenwriters, so they’re entitled to their definitions.

  12. Robbie, I would maybe see it as a rom com with a female lead (though that would very much change the movie given I don’t think you could pull off that humor with female lead as rom com). But I still wouldn’t think it was a good rom com if the hero didn’t arc and I still didn’t believe it.

    They tried to do raunch rom com with The Ugly Truth and it failed for me. Because they both just come off as unheroic and unlikeable because they focused on being edgy/raunchy (though not really) instead of a good romance. And I have watched my share of gross out comedies and don’t mind them (though they have all have moment where I cringe and I think most of them would be funnier without the extremes of that style) and they aren’t my fave style of comedy at all (give me Richard Curtis and wit please!).

    50 First Dates didn’t work for me either because it couldn’t make up its mind whether it was being a rom com or a gross out comedy and that’s how I feel about most of the recent supposed rom coms like 40 Yr Old Virgin. They’re neither fish nor fowl and that annoys writer brain because my expectations aren’t met. Pick one and stick with it. The Hangover was fine for me because it didn’t try and shoehorn a romance in there in any major way and didn’t advertise it in any way as a romance, so my expectations were just for a gross out boy type comedy and that’s what I got.

    But ymmv, many roads to Oz etc.

  13. I think I agree with Kitty, and this was another morality play about how to Live Right.

    (-: I will quibble about the playboy culture being new in the 60s. As I mentioned elsewhere, Dorothy Parker wrote short stories about secretaries and other women being seduced by office workers. I can’t find the name of the short story I’m thinking of in particular, but a boss gets his secretary pregnant, then finds her an abortionist. I want to say DP wrote this in 1918, but I could be totally wrong; doesn’t seem to be listed. But anyway, the cheating alpha male who breaks the heart of several women seems to be a bit older than the 1960s.

    All I can think of is that Jack Lemmon is a comedian, and the romance does seem to end on an upbeat (at least for the moment) note. Is that why they call it a romcom?

  14. I think the cheating male is universal (the cheating female, too). But the swinging, let-it-all-hang-out of-course-we’re-cheating male bonding is very fifties. People have cheated since monogamy was invented, probably five minutes after monogamy was invented, but the idea that it was cool for men to cheat, that you kept a mistress and everybody knew it, the public idea that men should have whatever they wanted and damn the reputations, that comes in with the Rat Pack and the swinging fifties.

    I answered you about Parker over on Argh, but the core of her stories was different from The Apartment. She wrote about being a woman in the twenties and thirties the way that Hemingway wrote about being a man, trying to figure out what the hell it meant, despairing of ever finding a way to be that person. Her stories are tragedies because women have no choices, they can never connect to the men they love because that’s the way the world works. The Apartment is an indictment of the fifties mindset, it shows how shallow and destructive is was, but in the end Fran finds a good man, and Parker could not have written that ending. If Parker had written The Apartment, C.C. would have nursed her back to health, sent her back to work, and it would have ended with her running the elevator again as Sheldrake and C.C. got on to ride to the top floor, ignoring her as an embarrassment while all the other guys hit on her because now they knew she was easy.

  15. I agree; cheating is universal (not even limited to our species). Public wink-wink, ha-ha about it seems to come and go during the centuries. One thing that we tend to ignore these days is that it takes a man and a woman (usually) to cheat. Men tend to get blamed because “it’s their animal natures” (Victorians did that, anyway), but the women tend to get forgiven or forgotten.

    Parker is another one of those people remembered for being very funny, but she really teetered on the edge of black, deep, dark oblivion (until she fell into it). Perhaps it was wit, not comedy? About half of her stories really aren’t that funny, although they are excellent. (The one about her dancing with a klutz, though, is hilarious although painful. To me. Who could have been Dorothy Parker in that hour.)

    The Apartment, also, is skating on the edge. There are many lovely moments of humor, but it’s so close to that abyss that it’s hard to put it in the comedy category.

    Do we have any dark romantic comedies on the list? Or does that kind of fly in the face of the current definition of “feel the warm fuzzies when the credits roll”?

  16. Parker’s story about the dance is “The Waltz.” Another one that funny as hell and tragic is “Just A Little One.” One of my favorite lines is in there: “Now to me, Edith looks like someone who would eat her young.”

    Dark romantic comedies. It is kind of a contradiction in terms. Grosse Point Blank: “I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork.” Better Off Dead is about a guy trying to kill himself. But serious dark, like The Apartment? No.

  17. I definitely need to visit my video store more often (-:.

    Thanks, too, for the titles. I can’t find a good Parker bibliography on line (my google-fu is not adequate today), and the book is at home. And it’s driving me a little crazy.

  18. @Micki,

    I’m not sure I agree that men take the blame. I’d say in this day and age it’s the woman that gets blamed more often than not like, “Oh, he was married. SHE should have stayed away from him.” The mindset of: Oh, the guy wouldn’t have cheated if not for that bad woman tempting him.

    I feel like men get much more of a free pass because there’s this attitude of hey, they’re guys, it’s what they do. But the expectation is that women are supposed to know better.

  19. Back in the fifties, it really was the woman’s fault. Everybody knew men’s appetite overwhelmed them and women were the moral sex so if somebody strayed, it was the woman’s fault for not saying no the way she supposed to. That’s why men were studs and women were sluts: men were SUPPOSED to get all the could and women were supposed to save themselves for marriage.

  20. I’m fascinated by the conversation about what makes something a romcom. The Apartment was definitely not one. But last night I saw “Holiday” again (1938)–Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn–in a big screen, old-style movie theatre. And that was definitely a delightful romcom, 5 on all dimensions: romance, structure and comedy, imho.

    Thinking about the other Popcorn Dialogues romcoms–some which worked, some which didn’t– I wonder about two things: First, do successful romcoms start with protagonists who are yearning for something better than they have, struggling to find themselves, and end with them finding both their path and soulmate? This definition would exclude the Apartment because both Jack Lemmon & Shirley McClain were unfocused at the start and at the end, though together, they still had no idea of where they were going.

    Second, are the protagonists in romcoms typically equals? In Holiday it wasn’t her story or his story; it was their story. In the Apartment, by contrast, it was his story.

    As I reflect on the films that we have seen so far, films seem to work better or less well based on the arc of personal awareness/longing to self-fulfillment and protagonist equality. But I haven’t look at that systematically. It’s just a working hypothesis.

  21. I think that needing something better, or being in a place they’re not supposed to be, is kind of the key to storytelling in general. Cinderella shouldn’t be in the ashes, John McClane shouldn’t be separated from his wife in Die Hard, Harry Potter shouldn’t be separated from his magic and the place he deserves, James. T. Kirk shouldn’t be wasting his life getting drunk in bars in the new Star Trek, etc. The tension in storytelling begins with “Something is not right,” and that’s usually the protagonist’s situation.

    I think a good romcom has the lovers as equals, but that doesn’t mean that one of them doesn’t own the story. American Dreamer is Kathy’s story even though she and Alan are equals. Father Goose is Walter’s story even though he and Catherine are equals. It’s just good to have one protagonist pushing the plot.

  22. Can we do an action movies PopD someday? I would love to hear you and Lucy talk about Die Hard, Speed, and, of course, the ever controversial Raiders of the Lost Ark.

  23. We’re doing this to learn how to write romcom, but I suppose we could do a month of Adventure and Romance where we look at the importance of romance subplots in classic adventure film. I like all three of those a lot, and Lucy and I disagree on Raiders, so that could be interesting.