Classic of the Week: The Odd Couple (1968)

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The Odd Couple is a 1968 American comedy film written by Neil Simon, based on his play of the same name, directed Gene Saks, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. The film tells the story of two divorced men – Oscar Madison, a happy go lucky slob and Felix Ungar, a crazy neat freak – who decide to live together. Their different personalities cause them fight.

Felix Ungar (Lemmon) checks into cheap hotel near Times Square and tries to kill himself by jumping out of the ninth floor window, but he fails when he pulls a muscle trying to open it. He hobbles back into the street and goes to a dance bar to try and get drunk and ends up hurting his neck when he throws a drink down. After leaving the bar, he walks to a bridge and stands on it, pondering jumping into the river.

Meanwhile, in the Upper West Side in the slovenly apartment of Oscar Madison (Matthau), a divorced sportswriter, it’s a hot and sticky summer evening and he and friends Speed (Larry Haines), Roy (David Sheiner), Vinnie (John Fiedler), and police officer Murray (Herb Edelman) are playing poker and discussing why their friend Felix Ungar was unusually late for the game. Murray’s wife calls and tells him Felix is missing. Oscar then calls Felix’s wife Frances and she says that they have split up. As they are talking about what to do and worried that Felix might commit suicide, Felix arrives not knowing that his friends already know his wife had kicked him out.

Whithin only a week, Felix’s obsessive compulsive behavior drives Oscar crazy. Felix is running around the apartment cleaning, tidying and picking up after Oscar and criticizing him for living like a slob. Felix also refuses to have any fun, because he is thinking about Frances.

One night Oscar becomes enraged after Felix ruins their double date and wants to get back at him by completely trashing the apartment. Felix responds by being his usual self, making Oscar furious with his neurotic behavior.

This film is a great interpretation of how two people with completely different personalities living together can clash. It shows the ways they mend and break and how they resolve problems. It also shows, that in the end, friendship and forgiveness is more important than being neat and tidy.

The film is filled with relatable subjects like, marriage and divorce, friendship, dating and roommate problems like not cleaning up, but it is also has some humor, because there are times when the guys actually make each other laugh. To me, this film is more of a drama than a comedy, not that that’s a bad thing. Actually, I think it’s what makes this film so great. It is wildly entertaining and  the pair of the two friends, although they clash, work so well within the story.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are outstanding together in this film, that to me deserved a Best Picture nomination at the 40th Academy Awards. This is truly an iconic film with an iconic cheesy theme song, that most everyone knows. This wonderful movie inspired the equally wonderful TV series. These kooky characters are ones that you will never forget (and the theme song). Everything about this film is superb. 11+ 5/5

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