Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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The Odd Couple

Film #361


Two friends try sharing an apartment, but their ideas of housekeeping and lifestyles are as different as night and day.

Year 1, Day 361

BEFORE: The second of two Jack Lemmon films also stars Walter Matthau (last seen in The Bad News Bears) and is another oldie, The Odd Couple. Based off a play, and later also made into a TV show, this film harks back to Trading Place from earlier in the marathon (although it was released 15 years after The Odd Couple) with two complete opposites coming head-to-head.

AFTER: One of the best things I’ve discovered about watching film in chains is that it’s easier to elaborate on certain ideas because they’re recurring and I can refine what exactly it is I’m trying to say. Yesterday, I talked about the simplicity of The Apartment and said:

…the simplicity makes the film interesting. It’s amazing to see so much be done with so little and The Apartment is a great example of that.

I also said that the reason many older films aren’t as readily entertaining is because they are too simple that it’s slow and boring to watch. The Odd Couple is somewhere in the middle.

The setup in The Odd Couple is ridiculously long. About half the film is introducing the main characters Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) - an uptight and obsessive neat-freak who is going through a divorce - and Oscar Madison - a lazy slob just looking to have fun who is also divorced but has been for some time. These two are also surrounded by their poker buddies who serve as some minor comic relief but are more a nuisance than a help. It’s great in the very beginning how the film mainly shows rather than tells. Quite a while goes by before we hear any exposition (when Felix’s ex-wife Francis calls the poker pals) and until that point we really get to see these characters as themselves. After that though is when the boredom kicks in a bit. There’s a giant lull between this engaging opening where we have to do a little thinking to figure out what’s going on and when things start to get funny. In this lull we see more of the same: character developments and a very subtle shift in story direction. A little is fun; too much is tedious and The Odd Couple reached high levels of tedium.

Thankfully, it got better about half-way through. Once the real point of the film was in focus - Felix and Oscar, two complete opposites, try to live together - I discovered laughter. Seeing Oscar dumbfounded at Felix’s obsessive-compulsive tendencies and Felix flip out whenever anyone dared to let even the smallest crumb drop to the floor had me laughing so hard the dog a floor above me started to bark (he calmed down quickly though). One of the best lines in the film has to be, “They say it may rain Friday.” I won’t explain why that’s funny (trust me, it’s all about context). While there aren’t really any spoilers per se, it’s better to go into the film with an empty slate so the seemingly random interjections can have full effect.

This film is much harder to just go with the flow. While The Odd Couple delivers some very big laughs, it also delivers a few snores early on. It’s a delicate balance between interest and drawn-out scenes that seem to go on forever and the film wobbles quite a bit at times. Lemmon and Matthau both do a great job with their characters and The Odd Couple is a great film to watch if you ever have the time or are in the mood for an older film but it’s not one you’ll want to watch over and over again.

RATING: 3 out of 5