A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Apartment is a screen classic that 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 plot 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 may be an uphill battle getting some younger viewers who can't tolerate anything not in color to sit still and watch this talky dramedy.
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What's the story?
In THE APARTMENT, meek C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a lowly statistician for an insurance company in a giant Manhattan office building with a workforce 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?
This film was a multi-award winner, perfectly cast from the top down, with 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, many kids and some parents may find it as dated 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the choices C.C. makes in The Apartment. 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?
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