Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 34:08)
Wilder's take on screwball, which sounds great on paper, except the screwball comedy this most reminded me of is Bringing Up Baby, and that's not a good sign, for me. I guess it's the high-concept of it all, though I'm not really bothered by the story being unbelievable. I am bothered by it feeling artificial though. Sam praises the characters here, but I don't see that much in the way of character here, aside from Marilyn. Jack Lemmon is really good, and him fully embracing the courtship is comedy gold, but is it really character-motivated ? It seems to me that it happens because it's the funniest thing that could happen, and there's nothing wrong with that when it really is funny, but not all of it works as well. Bringing it back to Bringing Up Baby, I don't think Curtis' Grant impression works at all. I don't even know if it's supposed to be an impression or if it's just Curtis being lazy when havint to portray a bumbling nerdy type... but then again I didn't like the original performance either, so what do I know ?
If I sound down on the film, it's because I am, but only relative to its status. It's still pretty funny, and Monroe is iconic of course... though I'll confess I'm uncomfortable with her, here and in other films with the full Marilyn persona. It always feels exploitative of her, and it's entirely possible that I'm robbing her out of her agency by assuming she was being exploited, but... well I suppose I'd feel differently had she lived. She is good here though, for the most part, and I suspect the reason I didn't buy into the romance aspect is more Curtis than her. It's not that he's bad, but it's a very arch-performance which he never manages to ground really, unlike Lemmon, who's just as big but still works as a character, at least in the moment. Curtis is always transparently performing, even when his character isn't, exaggerating the "virility" of his voice to accentuate the contrast.
The cross-dressing concept, aside from the wacky hijinks it allows to ensue, does allow Wilder to insert some light social commentary here and there, though even that's pretty dicey, as it's just slightly harder to laugh at sexual harrasment these days, but that's really not Wilder's fault. I do think the film works better when it's about them in drag than when it's trying to be a gangster film, mainly because of Lemmon but also because there's some annoying smugness in Wilder's script when it comes to the 1929-ness of it all, with characters commenting on things like the stock market always going up and never falling, or random sports prediction that I'm sure were "hilariously" wrong. The more I think about this film, the more obvious it is to me that it's basically a mess that's saved from failure by Lemmon's performance, and Monroe's to a lesser extent.
I do wonder if I'm missing something subversive here, as it does all seem too broad and simple for a Wilder script, and I'm sure a film with such a heightened place in the canon has to have some interest to it beyond the entertainment value. Not that it'd need to, but watching it, it felt like a big studio productions centered around stars and a wacky high-concept more than an artist's vision. The whole point of the "politique des auteurs" was to reconcile those two ideas obviously, but I have some trouble finding where this all fits in for Wilder. Hopefully that'll be clearer once I'm done with this leg of the marathon.6/10