Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher star in Ivan Reitman’s romantic comedy about friends with benefits turning—shocker—into something else.


Opens Jan. 21



Is this the funniest American movie ever made? According to a 2000 poll by the American Film Institute, it is. What’s inarguable is that Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy has aged very well indeed.

Some Like It Hot

finds Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis playing a pair of ne’er-do-well Roaring ’20s jazz musicians who witness a gangland massacre and wind up taking it on the lam. When the guys pose as women to join an all-girl Dixieland band—which includes a sweetly charming Marilyn Monroe as a hooch-loving ukulele player named Sugar—Wilder moves the film past obvious drag gags into fun, frisky, and sexually sophisticated territory. Dressing up as women frees the male leads; the often jittery Lemmon, whose character is reborn as a giddy gold digger, seems to be having a ball, while drag gives the usually earthy Curtis a reserved refinement. (Curtis once said he based his distaff character on a combo of Eleanor Roosevelt and his own mother.) They may be topped, however, by comic Joe E. Brown’s delicious turn as an oblivious suitor, which pays off in the film’s perfect final scene. (Heather Joslyn)


They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Hell, they barely made ’em like this when they made ’em, which is why

Sweet Smell of Success

flopped when it was released in 1957. But this is one of those cases in which a film fails to find an audience the first go-round because it’s so far ahead of its time—in its unrelenting tone of cynicism, and in its indictment of the media’s power for capricious evil. Brawny Burt Lancaster plays against type as the most wretched of ink-stained wretches, New York gossip king J. J. Hunsecker, who can and does destroy lives with the flick of a pen. Tony Curtis, perceived then as a pretty-boy lightweight, is Sidney Falco, a hustling press agent who will do anything to climb off the bottom rung of his sordid world. When Hunsecker’s sister (Susan Harrison)—whom the columnist loves with a creepy possessiveness—takes up with a nice-guy jazz musician (a pre-


Martin Milner), Hunsecker strong-arms Falco into breaking up the romance. From James Wong Howe’s rich black-and-white cinematography to Elmer Bernstein’s jazzy score to the chilling performances to, especially, Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets’ acrid, quotable dialogue,

Sweet Smell

is one unforgettable cookie full of arsenic. (HJ)