Felix's (Jack Lemmon) wife has left him and he is contemplating suicide. His friends sense his depression and one of them, Oscar (Walter Matthau), volunteers to take him in until he is fine again. The two of them are like chalk and cheese - Oscar is fun-loving, gregarious and slovenly, Felix is a shy, stay-at-home, obsessive-compulsive neat-freak. Being around Oscar brightens Felix up, but he quickly starts to irritate Oscar.Written by
The concept at the heart of The Odd Couple is laughably simple - so simple that it's been done dozens of times since in both films and TV sitcoms. The recipe - take two characters who are polar opposite in (at least) one aspect of their personalities (neat vs. messy is a popular variant, but there have been others) and cram them in a small environment (often an apartment) and see what happens - hilarity will ensue. Actually, although The Odd Couple can be seen as the original or, at least, the one that popularized this theme, it isn't that much more sophisticated or unexpected than any of the others. Felix and Oscar are very nearly cartoon characters, with the defining feature (neat vs. messy) as extreme as humanly possible. The big difference, though, is in the comedic duo of Lemmon and Matthau (in their second collaboration) who make these characters real, hilarious and so very lovable.
The Odd Couple was adapted from the popular Neil Simon play, but as funny as the play is, it takes a back seat - this is Lemmon and Matthau's show, and they made the most of it. These two had perfect chemistry and comedic timing, but unlike other great comedic duos - Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy - Lemmon and Matthau were both accomplished dramatic actors as well, and in all their films they managed to create characters who are extreme, polar opposites but also very relatable and very convincing as a pair of good friends. It's their acting that makes The Odd Couple not just a good comedy - which it is, but not a great one, there aren't really many laugh-out-loud moments throughout - but also one of the best buddy movies of all time. Though I can't help but wonder if it might have been a better film at the hands of a more visionary director like Billy Wilder, this film isn't about the director but about two of the most likable actors ever seen on film.
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