One the loveliest and most memorable New Year’s Eve scenes in the movies comes in the closing minutes of THE APARTMENT (1960). Shirley MacLaine abandons her disappointing lover at a party and runs, with her head held high, down a New York City street and up the stairs to Jack Lemmon’s apartment. Her face is so bright with clarity, determination, and anticipation that you can’t help but feel the absolute joy in her heart. The soaring score doesn’t hurt the level of emotion either.
While assorted and varied lists of the “Best New Year’s Movies” include contenders like STRANGE DAYS (1995), THE GOLD RUSH (1925) and, of course, the incredible THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972), THE APARTMENT still tops my list as the perfect film for ending one year and welcoming in a new. Not only is it a love story, but it’s also a story of reclamation, a tale of letting go of the bad to let in the good, an affirmation that every day brings an opportunity for you to choose how you want to live your life.
This film, which won Best Picture and Best Director for Billy Wilder in 1960, plus Oscar nominations for the cast, is a pure and eternal classic in all senses of the word. Its brilliant script is insightful and honest, the performances are perfect, it’s rewatchable and timeless, there’s an enduring emotional impact, and it’s perfectly engaging to look at — all those things that make great movies great.
Although it’s billed as a comedy and full of great lines and humor, THE APARTMENT is far from a screwball circus. Between the laughs, the film highlights the darker side of office life, rife with seduction, inappropriate behavior, and the daily drama of moral hazards.
MacLaine’s character is vulnerable Fran Kubelik, an office building elevator operator who is having an affair with Mr. Sheldrake, the head of human resources, played with impeccable smarminess by Fred MacMurray. He is a married man, powerful, certainly not well intentioned, and operating without any fear of consequences for toying with Miss Kubelik’s affections. Jack Lemmon, in one of his finest performances, takes on the role of C.C. Baxter, a young, ambitious employee at the firm who is not averse to letting his corporate higher ups use his bachelor pad for their sexual liaisons…in return for a key to the executive washroom.
Nothing good come of it. The script even goes so far as to include a suicide attempt.
These protagonists, Miss Kubelik and Mr. Baxter, have somehow found themselves in compromised positions. They are two people diminished, as it were, by what others want and expect from them. They have struck grand bargains, rationalizing that what they’re doing is in their best interests. Unfortunately, with their amoral decisions, both have lost the core of who they really are.
All is not lost, however. Happily, they both regain “consciousness” in time to recapture their own identities and, in turn, find each other, learning life can beat you up, but it also offers opportunities for changing course and finding what you really want and need.
Could there be a better uplifting message for celebrating new beginnings and ringing in a new year?
If you’re staying in and still don’t have a movie selection for this New Year’s Eve , TCM is airing THE APARTMENT tonight.
Wishing each and everyone the best of luck and love in this 13th year of the millennium!
SPECIAL NOTE: Home Projectionist is taking a brief hiatus as the New Year begins. We’ll be back soon.