Small Apartments Movie Review

Small Apartments Movie Review
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Written by Chris Millis
Release Date: March 21, 2012 (Australia)
Running Time: 96 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Editor’s Rating:

While I was still in college, I met with a novelist who said he’d written a book in three days, had it win an award, and then got a deal to turn it into a movie, which was shot in twenty days and on a budget that most films blow on parking validations. He held a presentation for a dozen or so interested people in a little alcove of Wayne State University’s English Department, and talked with us about the (not-so) controlled chaos behind writing a novel in 72 hours. Throughout it, he showed snippets of his film, and was a very wonderful and inspiring person. As it ended, he handed me a copy of the film, signed it, and tacked on a couple of notepads for good measure. We talked a little here and there afterwards, but I never actually watched the film until now.

Consider this my full disclosure, but do realize that I was not approached by the writer to do a review of the film. I simply chose to do this one today, folks. Enjoy.

So, there’s a manchild by the name of Franklin Franklin. He has dreams of escaping his dismal apartment complex in a terrible neighborhood in Los Angeles to the wonderful, teutonic, and majestic Swiss Alps.

Instead, all he does is blow on his alpenhorn, sip soda pop, dribble spicy mustard on whole pickles and eat them, and listen to motivational tapes sent to him daily from his brother who lives in a mental hospital.

You know, the dream. Oh, he also killed his landlord. To be honest, the dude deserved it, but it’s still this big deal that needs to get taken care of.

That being said, this film is not for kids.

I thought I wasn’t going to have a funny film to review when I was watching this. I thought I had made a grave mistake. I was sitting there, wondering how I could spin this piece to make it sound like there was a funny film I had seen, maybe called Mini Condos, or something. But thankfully, the comedy in this film is there to keep the heaviness of reality away from the audience while the characters go through some really heavy stuff. And to be honest, it’s the way life goes, even if the film over-exaggerates and over-saturates poverty almost to the point of stereotypes (see the film’s scapegoats). We love comedy because when we’re laughing, it’s a lot harder to think about the worries of the everyday. And while it might not always be there, the comedy is here to bring us back, to keep us feeling optimistic as the small, fragile microcosm in the apartment complex is falling apart.

Small Apartments was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, a man who looks like Tommy Wiseau but has infinitely more talent and primarily exercises it with music video production, but the sporadic and machine-gun pace of those pieces end up translating really well into the film’s own pacing. Moments and flashbacks intersperse themselves into the main storyline for sparse seconds at a time. They get in, get out, leave an impression, and contribute to the film’s overall sense of confusion.

The ensemble cast that was put together here is just as strange on paper as the book must have been. Ranging from James Caan to Johnny Knoxville, no matter what role these actors might be playing, they give an incredibly solid performance and are capable of delivering genuine moments of humanity. Matt Lucas is a perfect Franklin Franklin, this interesting little oddball of humor, awkwardness, tragedy, and ultimately, loneliness. There’s also a really off-type role from Billy Crystal in this film as dysfunctional fire-investigator Burt Walnut, but he plays it and his character’s arc incredibly skillfully.

While the film is a very stark and at times depressing piece of moviestuff, the film’s end message is somewhat didactic, almost infomercially silly, but nonetheless positive. And to be honest, it’s the kind of message that only a film like Small Apartments can deliver and have it feel true to the film. And while it might just be a way for Burt Walnut to come to terms with his personal life and Franklin to fulfill his dreams, it doesn’t feel any less satisfying for all of the tragedy and hardship that was suffered to get to this point.

Small Apartments is a film that goes everywhere with its tone and content, but somehow pulls itself together into this eclectic whole that is really fun to watch. If you can get a copy in your hands, I recommend it to those people who enjoy dark comedies. The film isn’t for everyone, but by god is it for those it’s aimed at. Enjoy.

**I was not compensated for this review.**

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