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Apartment Troubles
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by Jay Seaver

"Behind on rent? Jet across the country!"
3 stars

Screen acting can be such a volatile way of making a living that what is probably the signature absurdity in "Apartment Troubles" - that a pair of roommates can both be so broke as to face eviction from their New York apartment and whisked away to Los Angeles on a private jet - may not be as far from its makers' reality as it may seem on its face. The only way the movie makes much sense, really, its as a set of anecdotes shaped into a single narrative as best they can be, and that's actually a bit better than one might expect.

Those roommates are Olivia (Jennifer Prediger) and Nicole (Jess Weixler), the first an aspiring actress and the second a would-be artist, both so far behind on their bills that their electricity had been turned off and their landlord (Jeffrey Tambor) is giving them twenty days to get out. One more misfortune is enough to drive them out of town, and while Nicole's wealthy parents have cut her off, the pilot of her father's private jet apparently still l likes her, and her Aunt Kimberly (Megan Mullally) in Los Angeles has said to drop by any time...

Sure, that could happen, and Aunt Kimberly could just happen to be the host of a thinly-veiled copy of America's Got Talent that just happens to be having auditions that weekend. Why not? Prediger & Weixler - credited side-by-side as stars, writers, and directors - do sort of wink at this a little bit, having Kimberly comment that the family is worried that Nicole had grown so eccentric at such a young age, and generally do a fair job of letting things be weird without it becoming something that tries the audience's patience or gets taken for granted. A fair number of their gags are more "off" than funny, but enough work to get more laughter than eye-rolls.

It also allows them to pivot toward drama in some surprisingly effective ways. It's kind of funny when Kimberly takes an immediate shine to Olivia, but also believably hurtful to Nicole, and it only highlights just how unbalanced certain aspects of the roommates' relationship can be. That Nicole is adopted is an interesting subplot as well; her immediate family is never seen or heard, and she doesn't have any sort of explosion about how much it amplifies every bit of insecurity she might have, but it plays into why she and Olivia stay joined at the hip even though they can bring out the worst in each other.

That helps make Prediger's and Weixler's performances a bit better than they might initially appear. Weixler gets the funnier role, and the way it often lets her work quickly is to her benefit, as doing an odd thing and then moving on to the next bit allows the audience to see different facets of Nicole quickly (and when she has a good bit of physical comedy, she commits). Prediger doesn't have quite so many chances to show what makes Olivia different, and it makes the character a bit bland early on, but the actress cam show a crushable heart well enough to build affection for Olivia over the course of the movie. They've also built themselves a nice supporting cast. Jeffrey Tambor does the sort of deadpan-hostile work he specializes in, Megan Mullally keeps a nice vein of wisdom under Kimberly's dotty surface, and Will Forte turns in a small gem of a performance (comic and otherwise) in just a couple of scenes.

It's never terribly surprising when projects from filmmakers who have this far worked as actors have parts good enough to lure famous friends in; they know what is fun and exciting to play. Making it into a movie is a little harder, and this team can probably use a little practice. There are some funny visual bits that don't get presented nearly as clearly as they could (props for trying rather than just making this people talking, though), and some bits that are puzzling, coming off as private jokes that the audience had walked into. Their tendency toward economy is laudable, though; Apartment Troubles runs about eighty minutes with credits long enough for two songs, and stretching it more would have killed it.

Not bad for a couple of young actors still learning the ropes behind the camera. They haven't written themselves a pair of the great parts they can't get otherwise, but they made something fairly entertaining and worth digging up for a look if and when someone looks at the caters of the folks involved down the road.

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originally posted: 04/02/15 11:21:03
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  27-Mar-2015 (NR)
  DVD: 06-Oct-2015



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