08 May 2010

Review: "Some Like It Hot"

Some Like It Hot is one of those films that I watched fairly often when I was young. Like The Princess Bride, Death Becomes Her, and even Bullets Over Broadway, Some Like It Hot was one of the films that shaped my love of movies. The 1959 comedy, directed by Billy Wilder, is ranked as the number one American comedy of all time by the American Film Institute. The film is definitely a lot lighter than Sunset Boulevard (1950), but the two films are so vastly different that it would be too much of a chore to compare them. It comes as a surprise that some of the films I enjoy most involve cross-dressing, and at times Some Like It Hot is much more risque than To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) ever were, considering the era. The film stars Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe, three of Hollywood's biggest stars. While the film was originally planned for colour, the black and white cinematography seems to help make Jack Lemmon's and Tony Curtis' transformations more believable. Some Like it Hot is terrifically written, wonderfully acted and directed and is absolutely one of the best films of Hollywood's Golden Age.

The film begins in Chicago in 1929 and two struggling musicians, Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) witness a terrible string of murders. It is largely insinuated that this event is the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929. Joe and Jerry are seen by Spats Columbo (George Raft) and must leave Chicago. Their only way out is to join an all-girl musical band headed to Florida. Joe and Jerry become Josephine and Geraldine, though later Jerry decides to change his name to Daphne, and board a train with the girls' group. The two men are immediately drawn to Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and vie for her affection. They befriend the group with their boisterous personalities and their refusal to adhere to the no alcohol policy. Joe finally wins Sugar's affection when they arrive in Florida by adopting a new persona, Junior, a wealthy millionaire and the heir to Shell Oil. Jerry, meanwhile, while disguised as Daphne, attracts the affection of a real millionaire, Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown). Joe and Jerry find it difficult to keep up their charade and their lives are further complicated when the mobsters from Chicago arrive at the same hotel for a conference for Friends of Italian Opera.

No matter how many times I have seen it, Some Like It Hot remains as hilarious and special as the first time I saw it. The scene on the train, while Joe and Jerry struggle to remain in character as the girls travel south, is one of the film's real treasures. The film is too clever to make the film into a life lesson for the two men. There are too many films that are ruined because they fall into the trap of depending too much on themes of personal change. Luckily, Some Like It Hot is too well written (by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond) and directed for the themes to outshine the story. Jack Lemmon, who many of my generation will remember from Grumpy Old Men (1993), is the star of the film. His transformation from Jerry to Daphne is a thrill to watch. It is a joy to watch Daphne's relationship with Osgood blossom, especially during a fantastic dancing sequence. He was rightfully nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis may be two of the ugliest women to ever appear on screen, but Some Like It Hot is a fantastic film that transcends its era and while some of the dialogue may seem cheesy, the film is certainly not!

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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