My recommendation for New Year’s Eve viewing, if you’re inclined to watch a movie: The Apartment, by Billy Wilder. Turner Classic Movies is showing it tonight, beginning at 10 p.m. EST.
The Apartment is one of Billy Wilder’s best films, which is saying a lot, and it won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star as a mismatched couple in New York City in 1960, a time when the nation’s values were changing rapidly.
Wilder catches the enormity of the shift in moral attitudes, depicting Lemmon as a young corporate drone so desperate for success that he lends out his apartment to his superiors as a place for them to conduct extramarital affairs.
Naturally, this being a movie, Lemmon’s character, C. C. Baxter, falls in love with comely elevator operator Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), who just happens to be the mistress of the company’s powerful and imperious personnel manager, Jeff Sheldrake, whom Fred MacMurray portrays expertly against type. From there, things just get more complicated, horrible, and funny.
Sitting as it does on the fulcrum between two Americas, really, The Apartment a fascinating film, well worth watching. A crucial scene takes place on New Year’s Eve, which makes this a particularly appropriate time to see the film, but it’s a fine film for any time of year.