Picture it: New Year's Day, 2018. You're tired. Maybe you stayed up late last night, or the holiday season has simply left you depleted. Perhaps you feel like you've been tired all year; 2017 was a tough one for many people for many reasons, and anyone would be feeling wrung out. All you want to do is curl up with a good movie while you wish for a better 2018, and I am here to help by suggesting the one movie you need to watch on New Year's Day.
Deciding what movie to start off the year with can be a pretty personal choice, since you want to set the tone for the days and months to come. Something disposable and fun might be great in the moment, but a subpar cinematic experience can't sustain you for long. No, instead I'm going to suggest something romantic, heartbreaking, bittersweet, and ultimately rewarding: 1960's The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacClaine.
If you're not already an old Hollywood fan, you might be unfamiliar with the black and white classic. It was fairly controversial upon its release because of the plot. The story follows Lemmon's C.C. Baxter, an under-appreciated pushover of an office worker who allows his four jerk managers to entertain extra-marital affairs in his apartment. It gives Baxter perks at work, but personally doesn't make him feel all that great.
The situation becomes complicated when Baxter falls for MacClaine's Fran Kubelik. Fran is an elevator operator having an affair with one of Baxter's managers (Jeff D. Sheldrake, played by Fred MacMurray), which brings her and Baxter closer together while also resulting in some of the film's darker moments. And the movie does get dark, which may make it an automatic pass for some people. That's absolutely understandable, because your mental health is a priority over any movie. Spoilers ahead.
Fran and Sheldrake have a falling out while they're in Baxter's apartment, and after he leaves Fran purposefully overdoses on sleeping pills. Baxter discovers her and saves her life with the help of a doctor who lives next door. Fran stays with Baxter as she recovers and they bond in a way that is touchingly genuine. They play cards and make spaghetti, sharing details of their lonely lives and making each other less lonely in the process.
After reading that synopsis, you might be thinking The Apartment is too much of a downer to begin 2018 with. But it's impossible to capture its charm on paper, or explain how tender Lemmon and MacClaine's chemistry is. Like all the best romances, the central couple improves each other's lives by being together, even though their journey is not easy and they're both people with a lot of baggage. It's realistic without being pessimistic, and its big finale (set on New Year's Eve) makes it clear that the future will absolutely be a better one.
Unfortunately, The Apartment is a little difficult to find streaming online for free. It's not available on Netflix or Hulu, but you can rent or buy it on Amazon for under five bucks. The expense is relatively low, and in my opinion it's totally worth it. If you'd prefer something free and don't mind getting a little extra technology involved, you might be able to find a DVD copy at your local library (consider that a tip from your friendly neighborhood granny).
The Apartment is often cited as one of the greats, and it actually lives up to the hype. It taps into the mixed emotions that the holiday season can sometimes result in, where the intense focus on Christmas cheer might leave you feeling the opposite. It's a movie that will make you feel something in the best way possible, managing to be both funny and painful at once. The Apartment will stay with you long after it's over, too.
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