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Some Like It Hot

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Some Like It Hot

Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis
Director: Billy Wilder
Rated: NR
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: March 1959
Genres: Classic, Comedy, Music

*Also starring: Jack Lemmon, George Raft, Pat O'Brien, Joe E. Brown, Nehemiah Persoff, Joan Shawlee, Billy Gray

Review by Brian Koller
2 stars out of 4

Close your eyes and imagine Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag. If this image is instantly hilarious to you, you will be among the 95% or more who consider Billy Wilder's "Some Like it Hot" to be one of the greatest American comedies.

But there are always some people, such as myself, who are sufficiently humor-impaired, non-conformist, and/or overly critical so as not to get the joke. Cartoonish mobsters, empty-headed blondes, unlikely romances and Lemmon camping it up under a wig and false breasts may provide the elements of a great comedy, but only if the script allows and the pieces fit together.

"Some Like it Hot" stars Curtis and Lemmon as Prohibition era Chicago jazz musicians who witness the Valentine's Day Massacre. The surviving gangsters seek to kill them as well, forcing Curtis and Lemmon to dress up as women and join a travelling all-girl's band. Our cross-dressing heroes take turns romancing whispering dunce Marilyn Monroe, then have an unlucky reunion with the gangsters in a Florida hotel.

After seeing "Some Like it Hot", I trolled the internet for reviews of the film. Without exception, everybody felt that the film was both a hoot and a masterpiece, leaving this grumpy critic uninvited to the party. Feel free to take the following comments with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, it would be dishonest to change a grade or a review based upon the opinions of others rather than the film itself.

Compare "Some Like it Hot" to my favorite star-in-drag flick, "I Was a Male War Bride". Cary Grant clearly dislikes having to dress as a woman, and men who see him dolled up only make caustic remarks. Jack Lemmon, on the other hand, has a wonderful time as a transvestite, and has an elderly male paramour (Joe E. Brown). Curtis in drag also has a suitor, a tactless underage bellboy. All the film's characters readily accept Lemmon and Curtis as women, when no one over the age of ten would be fooled. Cary Grant also makes a better Cary Grant than does Tony Curtis. A jury would have to decide which crime merits the greater punishment: Curtis' trespass on a yacht, or his Cary Grant impersonation. Finally, while "War Bride" provides a believable female lead in Ann Sheridan, Monroe is simply a male's fantasy woman. She's gorgeous, stupid, willing and vulnerable.

Curtis convinces Lemmon to romance Brown, so that Curtis can romance Monroe on Brown's yacht. Why would Lemmon agree to this? Curtis is risking getting arrested, and risking his (her?) cover, which if blown would risk their lives. Lemmon himself has an interest in Monroe, and has no motivation to help Curtis. Lemmon also risks his cover in spending an evening with frisky Brown. Most confusing of all, Lemmon actually enjoys dancing with Brown, and is so taken with the wealthy but aged lecher that he seriously considers marrying him. Curtis, who spent earlier scenes sanctimoniously criticizing Lemmon for his lust, mysteriously changes his character to become a risk-taking playboy.

The Chicago mobsters arrive at the same Florida hotel that Curtis and Lemmon are staying at. This coincidence is beyond remarkable. Despite the fact that law enforcement agents have made their presence in the hotel known, and that the gangsters have registered there as guests, and that the hotel is a public place, there is another mob shootout. Curtis, running for his life from the mobsters who have spotted him, takes time off to run up on stage, dressed as a woman, and kiss Monroe. Monroe is so impressed by this that she leaves the band to join Curtis in his escape.

Anyone who has made it this far into the review is likely thinking, 'it's a COMEDY, stupid'. Admittedly, I feel like the guy who didn't like the film "Antz" because the characters acted more like people. But I feel that characters should have plausible motivations for their actions, and I didn't find that in "Some Like it Hot".

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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