In this quirky 60s comedy, two men whose marriages have recently ended live together as they get back on their feet. This don’t go to plan, however, as domesticated Felix (Jack Lemmon) starts to aggravate Oscar (Walter Matthau) who prefers a more relaxed approach to housekeeping.
A lot of the humour here comes from the sight of seeing two men behave like a typical heterosexual couple as they argue and bicker over the minutiae of domestic life. This is a notion which feels less funny now than it probably did at the time, when homosexuality was uncommon in popular culture and gender roles in relationships were more clearly defined. Where these scenes keep their comic edge it’s down mainly to the performances of the two leads, who excel in their respective roles and do a great job of creating believable tension in spite of the silliness of much of what they’re arguing about.
There are several wholly brilliant scenes, like when Felix has to entertain two women that Oscar has invited to dinner, which are almost Gervais-like in their awkwardness and also in their hilarity. Originally from a play, this film is incredibly self contained, and relies on its music to set the scene, which it does in cool, jazzy style in the New York apartment.
Also running through the film is the sad undercurrent of Felix’s life where he has lost his apartment, his wife and his kids, so we sympathise with him in spite of his annoying habits. The film pulls off that difficult trick of managing to make emotional scenes involving crying or heated argument funny, while losing none of the impact.
This endearing comedy remains enjoyable thanks largely to its main performances.