"The Apartment" is the perfect New Year's Eve movie. The film is about the optimistic and kind C.C. Baxter, played by Jack Lemmon in a great performance, being taken advantage of by his co-workers, who pressure him into lending them his apartment for certain nights. Eventually, he gets caught between his boss' affair with Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator working in their building.
C.C. Baxter is being taken advantage of by his co-workers. Apparently he lent the apartment to one guy as favor so that one guy could change into a suit before a banquet, but now the apartment cycles through 4 people in his office, forcing him to work later than everyone else simply to kill time while he waits for them to finish. Baxter lives alone, and now he barely even has a home, since everyone else constantly uses it and by the time he gets back to it, he has to clean up after everyone else. It is nearing the holidays in this film, and as Shane Black once said, "lonely people are lonelier around the holidays". Not only are people stealing this lonely man's home specifically for the purpose of being with someone else, but this time of the year is the time of togetherness, and he has no one. The juxtaposition a lively office to only him at his small, lone desk shows his loneliness. Despite him being lonely, he isn't a bore. He is a lively, optimistic, caring man. He clearly likes the elevator operator who he sees everyday and she seems to like him.
As a favor for lending his apartment to them, the four men give high recommendations to their boss, Sheldrake, to get him a raise. The boss, however, knows what is going on, and he wants in. As a result of lending the apartment to the boss as well, Baxter gets two tickets to a new play. He plans to show up with the elevator operator, Fran, but it turns out Sheldrake is having the affair with her. In a revealing and sad monologue while speaking to Sheldrake, she speaks about her previous affair with him. She talks about the guilt she felt being with a married man and how she wasn't really needed for him, since he was just going to go back to his family, and she would be left alone. The worst part is that she still can't help loving him. She obviously ends up ditching Baxter and he is left bitter and alone. Once again, Baxter is left with the short end of the stick. Yet he still forgives her.
During a Christmas Eve party, Fran finds out that Sheldrake's plans to divorce his wife are just to lead her on and continue having an affair, and he's done it with many women before. She of course confronts him about this while in Baxter's apartment later, but at this point it is apparent that he wants her to be what he wants her to be. He wants her to be "fun", and clearly doesn't really care much about what she wants and thinks. She is so torn up about being unneeded and unloved by him, yet she still loves him, and to her the only way out is suicide. She takes a whole bottle of sleeping pills.
The rest of the film is Baxter caring for this woman and nursing her to health, and essentially falling in love with her. He is once again left to clean up someone else's mess. After Fran leaves, he has the plan of coming to Sheldrake and pronouncing his love for Fran, but this is turned around on him and becomes Sheldrake describing that he is gonna marry Fran. Of course, this is out of necessity, since his wife divorced him, not because he actively chose to do it. He even says he is going to enjoy "being a bachelor for a while". Then, he requests the apartment for that night. Finally, Baxter has had enough. He decides that he deserves better, and Fran deserves better, and although this costs him his job, he realizes that it is not important anyway. He goes home alone on New Year's Eve, packing his stuff and leaving to find a new place where he isn't doomed to be lonely. When Fran hears what Baxter said and done, she sprints over to his house, and this is the only time that cliché romantic comedy ending hasn't felt clichéd.
Their romance is left ambiguous, and for good reason. At one point Fran even says "I wish I could fall in love with a nice guy like you", but the point of that line is that she simply can't fall in love with him. She wishes she had control over who she loved and she thinks she doesn't. What is important about this ending is that both Fran and Baxter realize they aren't doomed to be lonely. Fran actively decides she is no longer going to put up with Sheldrake anymore, and Baxter begins to take into account his own feelings rather than being a slave to his job. If New Year's is a time about togetherness and changing ourselves for the better, no film captures the spirit of New Year's better than "The Apartment".
The film is incredibly bittersweet, managing to pull lighthearted comedy out of damaged but incredibly likable characters in very bad situations. Ironically, love isn't romanticized in this film, and it shows how love can tear a person apart or pull them together. The writing is fantastic, the cinematography is surprisingly great for a romantic comedy set mostly in an apartment, and the casting and performances of the main cast are perfect, with only one or two minor character performances being bothersome. Funny, sad, and genuinely heartwarming. There isn't much else to say. An absolute classic.