An interesting comedy/mystery with terrific performances by the leads, a plot that keeps you entertained and a killer finale.
Plot: An American diplomat (Jack Lemmon) lets a flat from a mysterious woman (Kim Novak), who has been accused of murdering her husband.
Review: Iâm a fan of mysteries. There is nothing like a good whodunit to give you hours of entertainment. Watching a complex narrative twist and turn, changing your opinion of the characters and wondering who has secret motives and who doesnât â give me a good mystery any day of the week, and Iâm a happy man.
Is The Notorious Landlady a good mystery? Yes, it is. I wouldnât put it up there with an Agatha Christie yarn or classics like The Third Man or Rear Window, but itâs decent. I will say that there is no suspense in the case if Kim Novakâs character did or didnât do what she is accused of in the movie â I figured it out right off the bat. Some people would be turned off by that, but it didnât bother me. I will say that there was a blackmail angle in the third act that I didnât really understand and felt quite forced, but otherwise, no problems with the script.
You see, the cast of this movie is top-notch. Jack Lemmon is Jack Lemmon â the guy is just instantly likeable, and his portrayal of a slightly-bumbling American diplomat is right in line with his usual performances. Kim Novak is electric as the titular character â besides her sultry sexiness, which leaps of the screen, sheâs just enigmatic enough to make you question if she did or didnât do it â even though you have a strong inclination on that one. Sheâs just so appealing, and you can understand why the two lead male characters fall in love with her. Fred Astaire, in a non-dancing role, is excellent as Lemmonâs no-nonsense boss. I never got much of a sense of Astaire outside his musicals, but he matches Lemmon toe-to-toe in this one and has a tremendous physical comedy bit as well.
The ending of the movie is just terrific. It harkens back to those 20s and 30s silent films with the orchestra â thereâs hardly any dialogue at the end of the movie, just a lot of physical comedy, and itâs a fitting end to the film. I will say as a comedy, there arenât many laughs â this isnât one of those gaff-fests that have you haw-hawing in the aisles. Instead, itâs a clever piece where the hilarity is in the inter-relationships and the dialogue. While it wonât make you bust a gut, youâll be amused.
Overall, this is a solid movie with standout performances by the leads. While it wonât knock your socks off, comedy-wise, and isnât the most clever of mysteries, enough is going on in both facets to keep you entertained.