Small Apartments

Rating:

Alphorns and Corpses: Small Apartments

Main Cast:  Matt Lucas, James Marsden, James Caan

Director: Jonas Akerlund

Oh, I love a real odd duck piece of filmmaking!  It’s a big chance for the director, but such a fun ride for a brave audience.  Small Apartments is most certainly an odd duck, from beginning to end, and for the most part it pays off.

We enter the story in the (small) apartment of Franklin Franklin (Matt Lucas).  He is a largish, bald young fellow, clad only in jockey shorts, knee socks and clogs.  He is also playing the alphorn.  That’s right, just like on the cough drop commercials.  His neighbors do not love it.  In his head, he’s right there in Switzerland, in his lederhosen, playing to the mountains.  In reality he’s in his crappy apartment with the body of his dead landlord.  Oh, my.

As we move through Franklin’s story, we learn about his neighbors – grumpy old man Mr. Allspice (James Caan) and stoner Tommy (Johnny Knoxville) – and his brother Bernard (James Marsden), who currently resides in a mental hospital.  Franklin isn’t altogether with it all of the time, especially as he debates ways to get rid of the body on his floor – with his dog.  And himself.  His solution is not that of a genius, but in theory it doesn’t sound so bad.  Theory doesn’t translate well into practice and in one of the weirdest, funniest sequences in the film, we see him plan and execute this ridiculous task.

Most of the first half of the movie leans toward comedy – strange, but funny.  As we move toward the third act things become significantly more serious.  Billy Chrystal appears as a fire inspector and is the bridge character that balances the comedy and the drama.  He does so extremely well – sarcastic and funny but clearly recognizing the poignancy and pathos in the situation.

Matt Lucas (who was in both Bridesmaids and Alice in Wonderland) is fascinating as Franklin.  Sometimes he’s

Matt Lucas

Matt Lucas

completely out of touch with reality, other times he’s surprisingly astute.  His insistence on such a peculiar and inappropriate manner of dress does make him hard to get used to and root for but as time goes on and we come to know him (and his circumstances) better he becomes increasingly sympathetic.  I can’t even imagine anyone else playing this role – that’s high praise for any actor in any role.

The strange mix of characters, plot points (both major and minor), the weaving of subplots into the main narrative and the overall forward momentum of the story come together and make Small Apartments oddly compelling.  Not every chance taken by director Jonas Akerlund pays off in full, but more than enough to produce a highly satisfying whole.  4 stars out of 5 for this quirky indie and a recommendation for anyone looking for a movie slightly outside the usual conventions but not in the realm of art house or experimental.  I really enjoyed this particular odd duck.

photo by kweez mcG

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