The Apartment Movie Poster Image

The Apartment

(i)

 

Vintage comedy about sex in the city feels dated.
  • Review Date: August 9, 2009
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1960
  • Running Time: 123 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Though C.C. Baxter eventually does the right thing, there is a certain old-fashioned sexism of women as pliant man-toys and office sex objects, with no outside lives or destinies of their own besides being wives or mistresses/secretaries. While protagonists are overwhelmingly white, filmmakers do suggest the ethnic diversity of New York City with some apparently Jewish characters and some Asians (the latter, however, aren't allowed any dialogue). The skyscraper corporate/big-business environment is portrayed as cutthroat and dispiriting to anyone who doesn't want to play dirty (or violate ethical codes) to get ahead.

Positive role models

C.C. Baxter is either the nicest guy in the world or the most spineless pushover -- and maybe a mix of both. But he is the most likeable and respectful character, and he makes a noble sacrifice at the end. In her adulterous relationship with Sheldrake, Fran doesn't seem to feel very guilty about what she may be doing to Sheldrake's family, wife, and children, and she attempts to kill herself (we find out that a heartbroken C.C. did too, in the past). Except for Baxter's landlady, women in general in the (pre-feminist) picture seem pretty hopelessly dominated by powerful and disloyal men.

Violence

One punch.  An attempted suicide via pill overdose and a few other suicide tries.

Sex

Even though the whole plotline revolves around extramarital affairs, nothing is ever shown, and the dialogue about nonstop lovemaking is all euphemistic. When the hero, Baxter, is suspected by neighbors of having sex with two women in one night, for instance, it's talked about as a "double-header." Baxter refers to himself at one point as a "sexpot" -- and that's as intense as it gets.

Language

One use of "damn" in the Gone With the Wind sense ("He doesn't give a damn about me").

Consumerism

Mention of the old Hollywood movie Grand Hotel and the Broadway musical (later filmed) The Music Man.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking at a raucous office party, on dates with floozy-ish women, and alcohol in a bar as a remedy for the blues. The main character smokes, and we see a brief ad for cigarettes (the brand not specified) on TV, back when such things were commonplace.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this screen classic features an attempted suicide via pill overdose and a few other suicide tries (or actions that are mistaken for suicide tries) more or less played for laughs. The main focus of the plotline is sex and adulterous affairs -- but in keeping with censorship of the era, it's lots of carefully-coded talk. Nothing explicit is shown. There are, however, intervals of heavy drinking and smoking. It will be an uphill battle getting some younger viewers who can't tolerate anything not in color to sit still and watch this talky dramedy.

What's the story?

In a giant Manhattan office building, meek C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a lowly statistician for an insurance company whose workforce is bigger than some whole towns. C.C. ingratiates himself with his superiors because he happens to be a bachelor living in an apartment with no roommates. His bosses thus get him to spend most nights out -- even if he's just standing in the street in the rain, or sleeping in Central Park -- as they cheat on their wives in his suite with their floozy secretaries or bar girls. Ironically, thanks to all the female activity, C.C.'s neighbors believe he's a tireless Casanova, rather than the lonely milquetoast he really is. C.C. strikes up a genuinely warm friendship with the skyscraper's elevator girl, Fran (Shirley Maclaine), who seems to be classy, smart, and a real find compared to all the other girls. But Fran is actually the latest secret lover of the company president, Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). The married CEO bribes C.C. with promises of promotions and prosperity -- if C.C. will similarly lend Sheldrake the apartment as a love-nest getaway with Fran.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

THE APARTMENT was a multi-award winner, perfectly cast from the top down, with Jack Lemmon sublimely conflicted as the passive and unassertive C.C. Baxter, a most untypical movie "hero." Still, while some critics have rhapsodized that The Apartment only improves with age, kids and many parents will find it as outdated as the stated $85 per month (!) rent C.C. pays for his notorious flat. Even with the top-quality scripting, acting, and ambiance of big-city sophistication, The Apartment feels like an artifact from 1950s America -- when sex was kept more private, feminism virtually unknown, divorce was avoided at all costs, and loyalty to one's company (where you were expected to stay a lifetime) a golden rule. All outmoded today. Still, the moral quandary remains compelling, and  you really don't notice that the movie runs two hours plus, which is long for a comedy. Young viewers, however, might find the whole thing to be on the talky side.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the choices C.C. makes. How realistic is his behavior in the end? What would you do if you were in C.C.'s shoes?

  • Ask if the script still has relevance today, in a modern climate of movies like American Pie -- a Hollywood in which a character who refuses to help his buddies "score" and/or cheat on their girlfriends would probably be considered a total jerk. Does The Apartment still mean as much as it once did? 

  • Discuss how the movie revolves around sex without showing any. Everyone keeps his or her clothes on, and there are hardly any rude words in the sharp dialogue. Would The Apartment have been as effective if the talent had brought out the full arsenal of nudity, swearing, bathroom humor, and all the other benefits of modern R and NC-17-ratings?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 15, 1960
DVD release date:June 16, 2001
Cast:Fred MacMurray, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine
Director:Billy Wilder
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Classic
Run time:123 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byBestPicture1996 September 25, 2009

Very entertaining but sometimes dragging movie

I probably wouldn't have seen this movie had it not been for my Best Picture goal, but I'm glad I did. This movie REALLY isn't for kids what so ever, affairs are stated like mad, there's suicidal attempts, and some realistic violence. But the acting is great, the plot is great, and just when you think the movie's over, it surprises you. See this movie by yourself, then decide if it's for your teen.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent Written byStepMomSterToo June 26, 2010
I really like this movie. It has a lot of great acting. It's not a kid's movie, and while there's nothing really upsetting about it, I don't think kids need to be immersed in sexual plots. Suicide is a tough kid's issue as well. Better left for the adults.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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