The Apartment (1960)

As I alluded to in a previous post, I’d intended to pair this up with It Happened One Night because I assumed this was a romantic comedy.  I mean, it essentially is, but there’s also this little side plot that makes up half the movie that revolves around something a little darker.

If this movie came out today, it would be the sort of thing that Judd Apatow would make, and somehow I think it would contain far more semen jokes and far less subtlety.  (Not saying there’s anything wrong with him, just that modern comedies are of a completely different ilk.)

As it is, though, I’m a little surprised at the plot of this movie.  It’s like Mad Men on steroids.  A lower-level office worker who happens to have a really desirable apartment a couple blocks from Central Park (somehow I don’t think any of my friends in New York live in a similar setup) and rents it out by the hour to his superiors as a way to move up in the company.  That’s right – he makes his apartment available for his bosses’ sexual dalliances in exchange for a promotion.  If you’re thinking gross then you have the right idea.

It’s hard to make a character like this sympathetic, and that’s definitely a big concern I had throughout.  Whichever way you look at it, it’s a bit skeevy, this guy who seems to have no problem with middle-aged men “entertaining” (read: boning) women in his bed.  On top of that, he’s doing it solely to get ahead in his dead-end job (and I’ve already managed to forget what industry he’s in, because he seems so bored by it).  The only leeway I can give him is that, however this questionable arrangement started, he seems to have been pressured into maintaining it by the thirsty executives he hosts.

The real story here, of course, is the budding romance between the office guy and the elevator guy.  Just as a side note:  how many jobs have we lost because people no longer need an elevator operator to get them to the 25th floor?  Spoiler alert:  the elevator girl is actually one of the flings that has been entertained at the Apartment by one of the executives, and believes that her man will abandon his wife for her.  It reminds me of a Lorrie Moore story, “How to Be an Other Woman.”  It usually doesn’t end well.

But here is C.C. the office guy, waiting to rescue her from her complicated and distressing life.  Why, he’ll even save her when she downs a bottle of his sleeping pills and tries to kill herself in his bed.  Okay, that’s nice.  Then again, the fact that he also keeps her there for a couple of days to conceal the fact that she’s just attempted suicide without getting her any other kind of help is a little strange.  Maybe not the best foundation for a solid relationship.

I think one of the things that plagued mental health care of this era was the stigma.  Perhaps someone like the elevator girl – not rich – would be seen as defective and get shunted away in a scary state institution.  So what I see as somewhat uncaring from a modern perspective might actually have been an act of great caring and consideration.  Suicidal thoughts are often fleeting, once appropriately addressed, so maybe there’s a chance these two crazy kids can make it.


Theme:  Mental Health

Diagnosis:  Suicidal ideation

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Like a broken mirror


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