[Cross-]Dressed to [Avoid Being] Kill[ed]

18 Aug 2013: Some Like it Hot (DVD, 1959, Billy Wilder)

I can’t think of a better ending to a comedy than the one in this movie, where a rapid succession of what should be shocking reveals of the truth about Jack Lemmon’s cross-dressed character to his recent fiancé meets with utter indifference. “Nobody’s perfect” is essentially the mantric wisdom (and consolation) behind any act of interpersonal love whatsoever, and maybe part of what’s so exhilarating about this final moment is not just the breezily carefree way in which the actor delivers it but also some kind of recognition that it represents the seldom-seen right way to live: on the fly, with infinite forgiveness. With such an ending, I, for example, can forgive the comic acting for being what initially seems too broad and overplayed, where all primary characters fire at full pitch and full volume all the time, as well as forgive a disturbing gloss-over of extreme violence in two gangland-style mass executions that nearly bookend the story (karmic retribution, perhaps, but even so, too lightly treated). Watching how the characters scheme and connive to carry out their plans of deception with an utmost haste that barely escapes discovery maintains an excitement that dwarfs the obvious improbabilities – then again, perhaps the ease with which both “deceived” targets, Marilyn Monroe’s wandering singer and the aged millionaire who has the last line in the film, accept their repentant con artists suggests that the truth was as obvious to them the whole time as it was to the audience.

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