No comedy pairing may be quite as revered for their typically stellar work as that of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Diving right into one of their many acclaimed works, The Odd Couple isn’t my first experience with either actor, but it is my first experience with them sharing the screen together in such a prolific manner. The two are fast becoming some of my favourites, and it’s outings such as The Odd Couple that really highlight just how great the two were for each other.
Following Felix (Jack Lemmon) as he is thrown into a depression and out of his home, and Oscar (Walter Matthau), a friend of Felix that decides to take him in, The Odd Couple follows the highs and lows of sharing an apartment with a roommate.
I’ve had the pleasure of living with friends for extended periods of time before, but nothing comes close to the hell that Felix and Oscar put one another through in those three short weeks. Oscar is a slob, always dining out and in the financial hole, whereas Felix is a neat freak, and a respectable man that looks to set himself out in the right way. It’s your traditional binary opposites, the likes of which would make Levi Strauss spin in his grave, but it only makes sense for The Odd Couple to use such methods in telling the story of its two leading characters.
What makes these two characters work so well is the sublime performances and chemistry between Lemmon and Matthau. As ever, Lemmon is a tour de force in creating neurotic characters feel incredibly likeable, their over anxious disposition a threat to the very core of themselves. Between this and The Apartment, Lemmon here feels like he plays more or less the same character. A do-gooder, pulled into the underbelly against his will, and with no real way out in sight. It’s a nice development, and thanks to some great lines and inputs from Matthau, Lemmon is elevated to new heights.
Matthau gives a great performance too, his role as Oscar here a nice introduction to his comedic style and the type of character he plays alongside Lemmon’s straight shooting, down on his luck hero. Although the two are given subplots of their own, neither comes close to being as interesting or entertaining as the relationship between the two haphazard cohabiters. Tensions inevitably boil, and the two throw friendly jabs at one another, the only reason most of these jokes land so well is due to the excellent chemistry they share on the big screen.
The Odd Couple is an undoubtably enjoyable piece of film, one that will elicit a great deal of laughs, but also has the nerve to give us a few dramatic pieces here and there. With some rushed moments scattered throughout, and a cheaper than anticipated ending, it’s a film that does have some troubles, but none big enough to destroy the incredibly entertaining experience The Odd Couple creates.