July 5, 2010
Some Like It Hot (1959) *****
Directed by Billy Wilder
Some Like It Hot (1959)- (second viewing) Even better than I remember. So tightly constructed, well-acted and hilarious. ***** out of 5
Having seen Some Like It Hot before and having been a bit disappointed by it the first time I watched, I was all ready to call it one of the most overrated movies in history in this review. After all, the American Film Institute named it the best American comedy ever made, and They Shoot Pictures, Don't They calls it the 22nd best movie of all time.
Originally, I found the film very funny, but the final act involving the gang meeting at the hotel felt a bit too much like a dumb Bugs Bunny cartoon, which left me cold. This viewing of Some Like It Hot really solidified in my mind how important it is for me to go back and watch the most revered films more than once because this time I did absolutely fall in love with this brilliantly silly comedy of errors.
The plot of course centers around two bumbling male musicians in 1929 who witness the St. Valentine's Day massacre only to escape to Florida as members of an all female jazz band led by the self-proclaimed dumb Sugar Cane, played by the indomitable Marilyn Monroe. Her performance is one for the film history books. Her sexiness is thrust front and center, especially in her musical performances, but considering that she was notoriously drunk on set and extremely difficult to work with, there's an almost other-worldly ethereal aura to her presence on screen which adds a profound element of heartbreak. Without a doubt, it's obvious why these men fell all over themselves in such comically aggressive ways because of her sex appeal.
Tony Curtis is often overshadowed in discussions about Some Like It Hot considering the brilliance of his two main co-stars, but let's not forget that he's the only one who actually plays three different characters. He's quite good overall, though maybe the best compliment I can give him is that he's able to keep up with those around him. This time around, I found his scene with Monroe on the yacht as Junior much funnier than I remember. Also of note is one of the great supporting comic performances by Joe E. Brown who delivers perhaps the greatest closing line in film history.
Then there's Jack Lemmon giving what I think is the greatest comic performance in film history. His neurotic delivery and his physicality give his alter-ego Daphne a true depth and significance, allowing her to exist almost completely apart from Lemmon's performance as the submissive Jerry. One of the greatest and most famous scenes involves Lemmon as Daphne shaking maracas in bed radiating with total joy as he tells Curtis' Joe that he's engaged to be married. "Who's the lucky woman," Joe asks. "I am!" responds Daphne in a way that shows that Jerry has truly discovered a part of himself as Daphne.
The sequence with the thugs that first bothered me came across passable this viewing. The cake scene is painted with such broad strokes that it's likely that a comparison to a Bugs Bunny cartoon is what Wilder was going for. The setting takes place in an almost stereotypical 1929 with its backdrop of prohibition and organized crime. Bugs Bunny also derives his influence from these same stereotypes, thus permitting me to sit back, relax and enjoy the stupid fun of the action plot.
Some Like It Hot is a masterpiece, and I'm kind of ashamed that it took a second viewing for me to truly come to realize it. I still wouldn't call it the 22nd best movie I've seen or the funniest ever, but I will call it an unqualified cinematic treasure.