The Odd Couple Nov 14, 2013 10:45:12 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 14, 2013 10:45:12 GMT -5
The Odd Couple (1968)
Directed by: Gene Saks
Directed by: Gene Saks
A card game in The Odd Couple, which serves as one of the best scenes of the film.
Gene Saks' The Odd Couple is a masterwork of comedic timing and actors showcasing their energy and talents on screen. It marks the debut film showing both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau together in a film and would unfold into a long, flourishing career featuring the talent and humor of both men. The Odd Couple is amazingly crafted because it shows its actors as people and utilizes rare long takes in small settings that allow the actors to recite dialog that shows their specific character personalities and traits.
Jack Lemmon plays Felix Ungar, who is seen at the beginning of the film checking into a seamy motel with plans to kill himself after his wife claims she wants a divorce. After pulling a muscle in his back trying to open the window of the room that he plans to jump out of - a delightful example of pitch dark comedy - Felix wanders hopelessly around the wasteland that is Times Square with no clear direction or feelings of purpose. We then cut to a cluttered, disgusting mess of an apartment that belongs to divorced sports columnist Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau), who is hosting a card game with several pals and anticipating the arrival of Felix. This scene in Oscar's messy apartment lasts an upwards of twenty-five minutes, even past the arrival of a depressed Felix, giving Matthau and the band of hilarious character actors time to spit memorable one-liners and uproarious meditations on life.
Upset that Felix arrives with suicidal thoughts and feelings of uselessness, Oscar opens his apartment to Felix, despite their opposite personalities. Felix is a compulsive cleaner and so neurotic he'd make Woody Allen wince. Oscar, on the other hand, simply doesn't care about cleanliness or anything of the sorts. This, as expected, leads to contention between their differing personalities. For a typically predictable and ostensibly tiresome premise, writer Neil Simon and director Gene Saks know how to keep this material lively. For one, they rely on the characters and their interactions with each other and their conversational relationship rather than a series of events that anger one another. This is the biggest key to the success of The Odd Couple. There is no reliance on crudeness or over-the-top humor involving stock situations based on the characters' personalities. The relationship Felix and Oscar bear is one predicated off of lengthy conversations and deep, thoughtful realizations on life.
Lemmon and Matthau are a comedic force of ingenuity and hilarity. It's no surprise that their film career together was expansive and their friendship remained strong until their death. They have an exceptional way of building off one another through energetic banter, and despite their characters being polar opposite, there's no mistaking the way they feel like they need each other in order to thrive in the world. Few comedic talents could bring such an oddball chemistry to necessity-levels, but Lemmon and Matthau do an exceptional job at conveying such a need for one another.
Furthermore, it's refreshing to see a film not feel rushed and utilize its one-hundred and five minute runtime calmly and effectively. I tire quickly of films that feel that things need to be rushed or hurried so that the maximum amount of antics need to ensue. Saks and Simon are smarter; they are much more lax and have a looser grip on the material, allowing for sequences in the same setting to continue long past twenty minutes and this is a great thing. Two things have changed in contemporary comedies - the jokes are raunchier and often dirtier and the settings are utilized for not as long as they once were. Older comedies don't feel like they have a schedule, while newer comedies feel like a businessman aboard a 9:15am train that arrives ten minutes earlier than scheduled.
The Odd Couple is a hilarious endeavor, not hurried, not contrived, and not forced, allowing the energy of its screen-talents with their conversational fluidity and the genius of its writing and directing team to make an uproariously funny comedy the old-fashioned, good-intentioned way. The way that is unfortunately neglected in contemporary times.
Starring: Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Directed by: Gene Saks.