Broken Wing Syndrome

I'm sure most people focus on the comedic premise of The Apartment - that of an office worker that's been conned by his superiors to lend his apartment for discrete rendez-vous. It's a great setup, for sure, but I'm much more fascinated by the actions of our protagonist, C. C. Baxter.

Baxter has an eye on the elevator girl, Miss. Kubelik, who had been carrying on a volatile affair with Mr. Sheldrake, very much a big wig in the company. When Mr. Sheldrake finds out about Baxter's apartment, he uses it to start up the affair again. This affair is clearly set up as something bad for Kubelik and that she deserves the more honest and conducive Baxter.

Kubelik stays behind momentarily after one particularly dysfunctional visit to the apartment, finds Baxter's sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet, and downs them in a fit of fatalism. Baxter ends up finding her, and with the help of his doctor neighbor, saves her life.

This is where the use of character in the script becomes highly important. Baxter has a desire for her, sure, but he's also been letting all these people take advantage of him in using his apartment. Despite some aborted attempts at assertiveness, he graciously bows to the interests of others. What unfolds from here on is the real heart of the story, and it's all about character. The script is excellent, and where many stories have to walk a line between believability and entertainment, I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder remain firmly out of reach of that line.

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