Small Apartments
dir Jonas Akerlund
scr Chris Millis
prd David Hillary, Timothy Wayne Peternel, Ash R Shah, Bonnie Timmermann
with Matt Lucas, Billy Crystal, Johnny Knoxville, James Caan, James Marsden, Juno Temple, Peter Stormare, David Koechner, DJ Qualls, Rosie Perez, Amanda Plummer, Dolph Lundgren
release US 8.Feb.13, UK 22.Mar.13
12/US 1h32
Small Apartments
Dreams of Switzerland: Lucas

crystal knoxville caan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Small Apartments Far too nutty to really work, this outrageously colourful black comedy still somehow manages to find some emotional resonance in even in its most ridiculous characters. Nothing that happens is even remotely believable, but the rapid pace of fatalistic nastiness is never dull.

Franklin (Lucas) lives in a dumpy Los Angeles flat with his dog, dreaming of life in Switzerland. Clearly he's not all there, living mainly in baggy white briefs while relying on daily cassette-tape messages from his brother Bernard (Marsden). And there's also the fact that his landlord (Stormare) is dead on his kitchen floor. When he tries to get rid of the body, two investigators (Crystal and Koechner) start poking around, interviewing his neighbours (Knoxville and Caan). And when that day's package from Bernard fails to turn up, Franklin's real odyssey begins.

The film is a riot of flashbacks and fantasy sequences, using extra-saturated colours to add layers of meaning to the story and characters. Nothing is nearly as simple as it seems, and each person on screen explodes with attitude. Even the smaller roles offer the chance for actors to indulge in all kinds of scene-stealing, including Temple as a slut in the next building, Perez as a mental asylum nurse and Lundgren as a "Brain Brawn" pop-psychologist.

Yet even within the film's broad style, most performances are naturalistic and emotionally raw. He may be an idiot who doesn't have a clue about anything, but Franklin is played by Lucas as a nice guy still grieving because he misses his best-pal brother. This kind of thing gives the entire film an involving undercurrent, even when director Akerlund and writer Millis indulge in darkly absurd violence or zany slapstick.

Yes, everything's a bit too deliberately wacky and lurid, especially as the story plays with mental illness, obsessiveness and an inability to cope with daily life. The main idea seems to be that the craziest people aren't the ones who look crazy. Or that our wildest dreams might not actually be so wild. The film also reminds us that we only get one shot at life, so we need to forgive each other and choose to be happy. And the strangest thing is that it's actually rather moving.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 11.Mar.13

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