Herb and Charlie are best friends and brothers-in-law. Herb is the responsible one, Charlie the scamp. So of course it’s Charlie’s idea to scam a free cruise by pretending to be a dance instructor, and to trick his recently widowed bud Herb into doing the same (though at least Herb’s got some legit moves).
Of course, Charlie’s hoping to do more than just dance on this cruise; he’s hoping to score himself a rich wife. Herb (Jack Lemmon), still in love with his deceased wife, is not ready for the swinging bachelor existence Charlie has planned for them on board, but that’s only half his trouble. A snarky entertainment director is on to them and their little ruse could cost them thousands of dollars that neither can afford (hello, gambling my old friend!) if found out and no amount of Rue McClanahan flirtation can save them.
Matthau and Lemmon are of course good for some madcap hilarity. I’m struck by how physical Matthau’s comedy continues to be into his old age. This movie is pretty stupid plot-wise, but the chemistry between old pals Matthau and Lemmon is tonnes of fun and magical as ever. This is the 9th of their 10 collaborations and you never get tired of seeing them together. Does it make up for a weak script? Not really. But if you’re reaching all the way back to 1997, you’re doing it because these are beloved figures who crack you up doing their soft-shoe shtick, not because you’re expecting to uncover a hidden gem that’s somehow lain dormant for two decades. Jack and Walt were the OGs as far as Bromance is concerned. Matt and Ben have a long way to go before we’re willing to let them flirt so shamelessly with our grandmas.
Joe and Jerry have the serious bad luck of witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day massacre and need to get out of town fast. The only gig leaving the station is with an all-woman band, so Joe and Jerry show up as Josephine and Daphne, and the rest is comic gold.
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are dubious women but the disguises prove necessary when the very gangster they’re trying to avoid shows up uncomfortably close. The disguise is a further hindrance when Joe starts to fall for a fellow musician, the band’s fox ukulele player, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).
To be honest, I’m tickled just writing the synopsis. When, in 2016, do you get to write such words? Billy Wilder, you’re still the man. This is one of my go-to, feel-good movies. It never fails to make me laugh.
It was a super tough shoot though, because one of the stars was a bit of a diva. I’ll give you 3 guesses but you’ll only need one.
Marilyn never knew her lines. Not a one. It took 47 takes to get 3 little words correct: “It’s me, Sugar.” She kept saying “Sugar, it’s me” or “It’s Sugar, me” which is harder to forgive. After the 30th take Wilder had the line written on a blackboard but one still wonders why a further 17 were required beyond that. Another difficult 3-word line perplexed her further still. “Where’s the bourbon” often came out “Where’s the whiskey?” or “Where’s the bottle?” so Wilder had it written into the drawer she rummaged through. Then she couldn’t find the right drawer so he had it written in all the drawers. 59 takes later, she says the line with her back to the camera so you can judge for yourself whether she EVER got it right. Meanwhile, Tony and Jack had to stand around in painful high heels while she flubbed line after line, which can’t have earned any goodwill.
Marilyn’s contract stipulated that all her pictures be shot in colour but Wilder managed to talk her into black and white. The makeup on the men wouldn’t have been nearly so convincing in colour, he felt. She was actually reluctant to do the film at all, concerned about playing a character so dumb she couldn’t tell the girls were really men in drag. They convinced her with cash – 10% of the gross, which turned out to be a fantastic deal.
Some Like It Hot has the badge of honour of being one of the few American movies ever given a “Condemned” rating by the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency. Kansas went one better though – the state banned the film from being shown there, explaining that cross-dressing was “too disturbing for Kansans”. Luckily Vancouverites are made from heartier stock. As long as you aren’t pregnant and don’t have any pre-existing heart conditions, why don’t you check the film out at the Rio Theatre on July 6th. You won’t regret it.
And while you’re there, keep an ear out for the film’s famous last line. It was never meant to make the final cut and was just a place holder until the writers came up with something better. Both writers, I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder, credit each other with coming up with it so I guess we’ll never know, but the “placeholder” has earned the 48th spot on the American Film Institute’s list of greatest movie quotes.
Thursday Movie Picks, sponsored as ever by Wandering Through the Shelves, is brought to us this week by the letter W – for movies set in the workplace.
Office gossip can be addictive. Most people wind up spending most of their time talking about work when they spend time with their colleagues outside the office. Actually, three of the Assholes work in the same place and- when we’re not arguing about movies we’re often reminiscing (or ranting) about work. Even people who claim to hate their job tend to find the comedy and drama of any workday pretty interesting. All you need to do is capture that environment in a relatable way and you’ve got a pretty good movie.
The Apartment (1960)- This has been one of my most significant Blind Spots until this week and it was worth the wait. Jack Lemmon plays an accountant at a big firm who’s just trying to get noticed. Once his superiors find out that he has a modest but nice apartment conveniently located on the Upper West Side, he becomes their go-to guy as they start borrowing his key so they can discreetly cheat on their wives. Director Billy Wilder has a lot to say about the compromises people make in the name of ambition and manages to make a movie that is still funny after all these years while he’s saying it. Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are as charming as can be too.
Office Space (1999)- Turning an animated short into a live action feature-length film could have been a disaster but Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge turned any old boring day into the office into one of the funniest comedies of the 90s. Re-watching it this week, I laughed loudest when Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh- in an effort to pacify the troops- announces that Friday will be Hawaiian Shirt Day. Around our office, they charge us two dollars to wear jeans on Friday. I couldn’t help feeling bad for poor old Milton though.
Margin Call (2011)- Yet another movie that I’m thankful to Wanderer for giving me an excuse to finally check out this week. Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons, and Kevin Spacey (making my list two weeks in a row) play investment bankers who see the writing on the wall leading up to the 2008 Financial crisis and sit around wondering what to do about it. Director J. C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) knows how to set the mood and the performances are all stellar.
Up In The Air – Poor Ryan Bingham is so afraid of real life that he’s made sure his job keeps him in constant motion. His office may be at a cruising altitude of 32 000 feet but he spends a lot of time visiting other people’s workplaces to tell them they’re no longer employed. This is such a tough job that cash-strapped businesses are still willing to pay big bucks during a recession for him to do it in their place. He sees offices at their very worst, smells the fear and senses the instability, and is the receptacle for sometimes 20 years’ worth of pain and frustration. Our identities can be so wrapped up in our work, and in many ways, Ryan (George Clooney) is the prime example of this. Director Jason Reitman bravely tackles those creeping workplace notions of downsizing and obsolescence and asks some tough questions of the aging American workforce.
The Social Network – I love how you see the growth of the company here, the “offices” originally in a Harvard dorm room, and then graduating quite quickly to the impressive work space that was eventually needed. The movie recounts a very modern invention (hello, Facebook) but its workplace themes are as old as the first profession – loyalty, jealousy, theft, power, the complicated ownership of ideas. Whether friends or enemies, friended or unfriended, colleagues or competition, this project is always work, and everybody wants to get paid.
Brokeback Mountain – The classic office romance. They meet by the photocopier, lock eyes over the on, thwater cooler, exchange business cards in the elevator…or, you know, not. Don’t you wish your office looked like this? The scenery is breathtaking but make no mistake: these two cowboys meet at work, doing a job that’s not altogether welcoming to “their kind.” When their boss gets an inkling of what’s going on, the work dries up and the two spend the rest of their lives stealing secret moments and steeling themselves with memories of the best job they ever had.
Bonus pick: Monsters, Inc. Sully and Mike are about as close as two colleagues can be. Mike is the more ambitious of the two, but it’s Sully’s talent and skill that make them so successful. The workplace is originally competitive, and tinged with the fear of contamination (they do bio-hazardous work with children). It may be a cartoon about fuzzy monsters, but any joke about paperwork in triplicate is likely to land huge with adult audiences.
Since Matt took Office Space and Jay took Up in the Air, I am sticking to familiar territory and making my section an all-lawyer-movie workplace bonanza!
Philadelphia – a great movie about a lawyer getting kicked out of his workplace, and then going to his other workplace, the court, to try to make things right. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington absolutely own this movie. I actually did not see this until last year and I should have seen it way sooner, because it’s excellent.
A Few Good Men – I saw this in theatres, I owned it on VHS, I own it on DVD, and one of my roommates in university recited the “You can’t handle the truth!” speech every time he had more than three drinks. And I could watch it again tomorrow. There are so many good lines and so many good characters in here that it remains enjoyable to this day. And again there are a few workplaces in here, namely the courts and the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
The Firm – Tom Cruise is probably the best lawyer ever, at least if you go by his on-screen performances. He almost got Dawson and Downey freed and in the Firm he somehow outmaneuvers a whole team of crooked lawyers and the mob while still adhering to his strict ethical code. Plus he does a lot of really fast running in the Firm which is always the best part of any Tom Cruise performance. This movie feels really long, because it is, but it’s still a good watch.
Anyone had an office love? Office hook up? Office BFFs?