"Told you 158 times I can't stand little notes on my pillow. "We're all out of cornflakes. F.U." Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Unger!" Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon) is the neat freak, forming with his buddy Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) the titular odd couple, and this line is only one drop of the ocean of hilarious one-liners this adaptation of Neil Simon's play contains.
And 'hilarious' is an understatement, because the more I watch "The Odd Couple", the more tempted I am to believe this is one of the funniest films ever. In other reviews, I would have left such a bold statement for the conclusion after a series of well-developed points, but this time, I give up, I have to say that first. I have to shout how truly funny Gene Sachs' film is, how high is the level of hilarity reached by its best scenes and how delightful it is to watch Lemmon and Matthau inhabiting the conflict between two grumpy middle-aged men that couldn't have been more opposite, the neurotic and overanxious Unger and the joyful and frivolous slob Madison. Even the title even resonates as the comical premise and the psychological core of the story, two men, two attitudes towards loneliness ... Felix is the agony, Oscar the ecstasy.
Much more, their attitudes in life have one thing in common: they're driven by their marital experience. Felix inherited the manic habits of cleanliness, Oscar not only rejected them all but exorcised his demons by shamelessly getting back to his roots and living like a bachelor again. In a way, the film opened my eyes of some endearing aspects of being a man: carelessness. You can smoke, drink a beer and put a glass on the table, even if it leaves rings, or not eat over the plate, even if it leaves crumbs on the floor, no one would shout at you. And every once in a while, Mister Hyde becomes the Doctor Jekyll and it's time to turn the place into something more presentable. Generally, it happens when you expect a charming visit, but that's the virile circle of life, 80% dirty and 20% clean, and I guess male bonding is about rediscovering the joy of carelessness together. Believe me, it's been eights months since I'm married and one year since I lived with my wife and I wish I could savor the taste of carelessness again.
Yes, sometimes, I look at bachelor's life envy. And when I go to my friend's house, I'm like in heaven. "The Odd Couple" has this appealing quality; it shows you that life hasn't changed much since 1968. I could respond to Matthau's Madison, even more because in life, my wife turned me into Lemmon's Unger. When my friend came to my house, I asked him to leave his shoes near the door, to have the round thing for the beer, not to mess with the carpet. He couldn't believe it, but well, he couldn't believe either the way the house improved, how full was the fridge, maybe he felt he was missing things too. Well, that's women, the cause and the solutions of our problems. And I guess the joyful bunch who come to Madison's flat to play poker every Friday night (great cast by the way) enjoy their game even more because they know after this virile oasis, they'll get back to marital routine. Married guys don't know what they miss, but when they become bachelors again, they miss what they lost.
And that's what Oscar and Felix have in common: they're not married anymore, both are divorced and divorcing, and when out of friendship, Oscar invites Felix to live in his eight- room apartment, he doesn't realize that he brought himself a man whose habits are worse than a woman's without the advantages of a woman. Both have two philosophies of life extended to their most extreme sides, one wants to enjoy freedom, another to control things, you could tell why both divorced (we can figure that for them because basically they can't) so maybe the salvation is somewhat in-between. But the film is less about the cohabitation process with a learning or a message than a series of hilarious sight gags and one-liners that are both witty and true to life. It feels like a sitcom sometimes but it transcends the material of a sit-com through powerful performances from a genuine odd couple.
Indeed, it's a comedy, a gag-driven comedy, and any other considerations are totally useless, it's all about the interactions between Matthau and Lemmon, the Auguste and the white- faced clown. And the force of the film is to never reach a breaking point of absurdity. Lemmon's mimics are hilarious, the opening sequence is probably the greatest tribute to his comedic talent, he's the true successor of Silent legends, his "FMUH" in the restaurant scenes killed me, but he never exaggerates them, he always carries the gravity of his character, with such versatility he could have made him a pathetic in a drama. Another example is when they invite two English sisters, both equally cute and funny. Well, in a bad film, the date would have been turned into a disaster, Today, it would have lead to some gratuitous crude gags, in "The Odd Couple" it's dealt with sweetness and a rare sensitivity.
The film deals with the pathos of his character with sweetness and intelligence, and their confrontation are so full of memorable lines that you never get tired of their interactions. It's funny, witty, hilarious. I guess it exceeds "The Producers" as the best comedy of 1968 and last but not least, it features a very catchy theme. Remember, it's the one Homer Simpson sang to Lisa, convinced that it was her favorite film, ta-tata-tataaa
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