||The Odd Couple
1968 - G - 105 Mins.
|Director: Gene Saks|
|Producer: Howard W. Koch|
|Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Fiedler, Herb Edelman, David Sheiner |
|Review by: James O'Ehley
After twelve years of marriage, Felix Ungar’s wife finally leaves him.
I say “finally” because while Felix (Jack Lemmon) may on the surface seem to be the type of person you would want to share a living space with – he is fastidiously neat and always cleans up – the truth is that the almost obsessional fussing can become a major pain in the butt.
Oscar Madison, a good friend takes pity on Felix and lets him stay with him at his place – a huge New York apartment. Besides, Oscar (Walter Matthau) and Felix’s regular poker buddies are afraid that the neurotic Felix would “do something stupid” (i.e. commit suicide) and this is a way to keep an eye on him.
The only problem is that Oscar (also divorced) is an unrepentant slob, and as time passes it becomes increasingly difficult for the two men to get along and they end up incessantly bickering and fighting.
Now let’s see: two grown men sharing an apartment, with one acquiring more and more effeminate qualities as time goes on? Mmmh . . . and not so much as a mention of the word “homosexual”?
This could only be 1968, when bachelors were, well, bachelors and it was okay for Walter Matthau to make on-screen sexist comments somewhat reminiscent of the CARRY ON movies (Brits will know what I’m talking about here).
Younger viewers will remember the comic duo of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as being the "Grumpy Old Men". Older viewers will remember them as the stars of this adaptation of a very popular Broadway show by Neil Simon of the same name.
"The Odd Couple" probably set the template for modern day sitcoms. Pair mismatched characters in a closed environment (usually an apartment) and watch the one-liners fly. Except "The Odd Couple" has better one-liners than most sitcoms and is, actually, well, funny and clever (have you watched any mainstream sitcoms lately?). Thankfully there is also no laugh track, but there is an inanely catchy theme tune that got stuck in my head for days afterwards. Terrible.
Both Matthau and Lemmon (sadly both have passed on) were great actors and they effectively play off each other. Like I said, no homosexual subtext here – unlike, let’s say, the zany and rather risky comic role Lemmon portrayed opposite Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s "Some Like it Hot."
How times have changed.
Note: try to watch this movie on the recently released widescreen DVD and not any TV broadcast. Not only is the image quality great and the print used faultless, but one gets to appreciate how director Saks framed his shots. A comedy of this intimate nature may not seem like the perfect place to show off the benefits of widescreen DVDs, but in a pan ‘n’ scan version characters with whom dialogue is exchanged will appear mysteriously off-screen.