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Most holiday films aim for the sweet tooth of childhood nostalgia or pivot around family hijinks. Yet a whole lot of people don’t have anywhere to go for the holidays, and the onslaught of family-focused events can make the loneliness more acute.
That’s the undercurrent of The Apartment, the 1960 Oscar winner from Billy Wilder, about lonely hearts facing a New York City Christmas alone. A surprisingly edgy comedy for the time, fresh off the Leave it to Beaver 50s, the film revolves around company man Bud (Jack Lemon), who’s been offering his apartment to his married bosses for their illicit affairs.
Bud is single and holding a torch for the company’s elevator operator, Fran (a young Shirley Maclaine), who’s also single, but has someone else on her mind.
The film stares straight into the gulf that opens between those who have families to go home to and those who don’t, but it leaves viewers on an upbeat note, one that’s not too saccharine.
The Apartment manages to be a fascinating time capsule that will make you grateful you are living in the here and now. Yet it’s also a timeless look at the holidays from the point of view of those without families. Bitingly funny, the film will appeal to cynics, cinephiles, and even romantics.
Your single friends or your older relatives.
There’s a suicide attempt by one of the main characters, and another admits to having contemplated ending it. But the topic is handled with care, and the film ultimately shows how people overcome holiday despair.