Directed by Billy Wilder
I am a Wilder fan. I have not seen a majority of his films but I find his filmography to be as diverse as it is exceptional. The fact that a pessimistic, hate letter to the media like Ace in the Hole can be made by the same man who gave us the hilarious Some Like It Hot is an achievement as both represent some of the greatest of American cinema in their respective genres.
So, when I put this on, I had certain expectations of quality and while most of them were met, Wilder doesn’t seem to be one to phone it in, I was left feeling like this is one of his weaker works, feeling more in line with Sabrina than Sunset Blvd.
The plot is simple: A middle aged married man wants to bang his hot neighbor. Who wouldn’t, she’s played by Marilyn Monroe.
And it’s really not anything much beyond that. It has certain scenes that try to imply some type of themes about marriage, rationalization, adultery, and gender, but it really feels like a shallow affair. This wouldn’t be a problem, but it lacks the humor and passionate performances that Some Like It Hot and Sabrina did. It has moments, but overall… It’s just there.
Everything works. The humor is mostly amusing but never overwhelming, Marilyn looks great, and the lead guy is good (though I couldn’t help he was played by a different lead that I like more, like Jack Lemmon), and Wilder remains visually inventive despite a limited setting due to it’s play roots.
One trivial thing that bothered me was the choice to allow the protagonist to narrate outloud. I understand that Wilder wanted to remain true to the play but it just felt strange.
Lastly, I think it’s worth noting that the film was very controversial in its time. It’s impressive how even in films that feel very safe by today’s standards, Wilder was never afraid to push the envelope where he could.
So, if you’re wanting to get into Wilder, watch any of the ones I mentioned here (oh, yeah, and Double Indemnity too!), but if you want a light hearted fun movie to unwind to or are a completist for filmographies, then you could do a lot worse.