For those of you who are still with us, today's review is Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder's 1959 outing with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn-you-know-who. The American Film Institute considers Some Like It Hot to be the best comedy of all time, which makes me wonder: how do you determine the Best Comedy Of All Time? Are rankings based on pure comedic value, to the exclusion of deep emotional involvement from the audience, as in The Pink Panther, Ghostbusters, This Is Spinal Tap? Or are comedies judged not only by their ability to make us laugh, but by the stake we place in their world, the lasting effect they have on us -- as in Annie Hall, Brazil, Good Morning Vietnam?
Some Like It Hot belongs to the former group of films: all-fun, no-commitment. I don't know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but this movie requires no investment, no empathy. All it requires of its audience is that they sit back and laugh.
|Rubber Duckie, you're the one!|
Gender politics in 1959 weren't exactly left-wing, but Some Like It Hot stands up surprisingly well. Much of the humour comes from Joe and Jerry's discovery that femininity, far from disgusing them, turns them into targets: of the unwanted advances of hotel staff, elevator gropings, etc. They also have to learn to walk in high heels, which is always good for a chuckle. Perhaps the movie's most unintentionally revolutionary moment is when Jerry's new "fiance" declares that the fact that his lover is male is no concern to him: "nobody's perfect", he declares with a Cheshire grin, much to Jerry's dismay.
Sexual precociousness is only identifiable in retrospect: I don't know that Some Like It Hot had anything of depth to say about 1959 back in 1959. The gender revolution was in the future, and prohibition was in the past. What was left? A good time, I guess. Some Like It Hot is still funny after sixty years, which is something you can't say about a lot of movies, particularly those that depend on sex and gender for their humor. But does its funniness excuse its total lack of contemporary emotional context? There's no one to like or root for in this movie, there's only people to laugh at. I give it a 4/5.
|The Hays Code, of course, banned double chins starting in 1960.|