Friday, October 2, 2015

Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler's APARTMENT TROUBLES hits dvd; nice Chekhov!


OK: The movie's a mess. But, gheesh, it's sort of an endearing mess -- funny in odd ways rather than the expected, and as ditsy, charming and irritating as its two leading ladies, Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler, who also wrote and directed the film. You might call this a "vanity production," except that the filmmakers are as apt to show their worst sides as their better ones. Also, they do have a bundle of talent, even if it's oddball rather than mainstream.

Ms Prediger (shown at right) and Ms Weixler (below) both have a barrel of indie-film credits (Weixler has 37, Prediger 22) so they've been around the block a few times. Here, they take a well-known fact of life these days (nobody except the very wealthy can afford an apartment in New York City or its environs) and use it a leaping-off point for their adventures -- which prove to be a kind of first-class road trip to Los Angeles and back again.

That their film lasts only 77 minutes is probably wise, and the fact that it ends on a strange, lovely
and appealing note will send any Chekhov lovers in the audience levitating in a state of grace. The Russian master and his work figure in this film a couple of times and in major ways -- firstly in a weird piece of performance art that the two girls, Nicole (Weixler) and Olivia (Prediger) decide to act out on a kind of America's Got Talent TV show. It's a odd homage to Anton Chekhov and his play, The Seagull, in both the kind of amateur theater production it appears to be imitating and in its use of some of the dialog from the play. What's more, these lines appear again at film's end, this time performed by Weixler in what is the most beautiful rendering of them--visual and verbal--I've yet seen/heard.

I am guessing either or both of these actresses did Chekhov in high school or drama school and probably fell in love with him and his creation, Nina, from The Seagull. In any case, the movie's use of these few lines at the finale gives it a strange and slightly Armageddon-like quality, which is probably not amiss in our current times (just as it would not have been in Chekhov's own).

Also in the cast are three more noted and popular performers who were somehow corralled into joining the cast, which proves all to the good. Jeffrey Tambor -- shown above, right, and currently riding and definitely adding to the heights of Transparent (the double meaning of this terrific title word only became apparent to me as I typed it now). Tambor plays the girls' odd landlord (everything and everybody in this movie is odd), who for some reason enjoys showering in their apartment but is not happy about their consistently tardy and under-market rent payments.

Once they arrive in Los Angeles, they're given a lift by an even odder character played by Will Forte (above, right), who appears again toward the end to goose the movie into a kind of "full circle" thing. Forte is fresh and funny (and real), as usual.

But it is Megan Mullally (above, left) as Nicole's odd aunt, who gives the movie a consistent lift. Clearly sexually attracted to Olivia, as well as wanting to help the pair, she simply can't keep her hands to herself, making Prediger's character as uncomfortable as it makes us viewers amused. (That Mullally and Prediger could pass for mother and daughter adds a soupçon of further naughtiness to the proceedings.)

And that's pretty much it: They come to L.A., they do silly things, and then they leave again for NYC. But beneath the veneer lies longing and frustration of artists and women who cannot express themselves and be heard, so the expression comes out in, yes, odd ways. In a sense, both these young women are Ninas -- but let's hope as in the earlier, rather than the later, portion of Chekhov's play.

Prediger, looking like a lost little girl struggling to grow up, has a lovely, true and dulcet singing voice, which we hear only haphazardly at the aunt's dinner party. I'd like to hear it again.

Weixler, whom I have in the past compared to a young Meryl Streep, here looks more like the youthful and oddly beautiful Bette Davis. The actress has an edge that she knows how to use, and she does so quite purposefully here.

If it sounds like I am raving about this strange little mistake of a movie, well, so be it. It certainly will not prove to be to most audiences' tastes. But for those willing to take a chance, or who love Chekhov, or enjoy any of all of the performers mentioned above, it is worth that chance. As a whole, it may go right by you, but certain little scenes, I swear, you'll remember for quite some time (particularly if you're a cat person).

Apartment Troubles, from Anchor Bay Entertainment and Gravitas Ventures, will appear on DVD this coming Tuesday, October 6, for purchase or rental.    

2 comments:

Arion said...

Looks like a fun movie. By the way, I just read your post about The Man from UNCLE and it was great. I just wrote about it in my blog (wich I encourage you to visit):

www.artbyarion.blogspot.com

I hope you enjoy my review, and please feel free to leave me a comment over there or add yourself as a follower (or both), and I promise I'll reciprocate.

Cheers,

Arion.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for commenting, Arion. I did go to your blog and read your thoughts on various films. I found them brief but interesting and worth reading. You seem to have, as do I, catholic tastes, and not in the religious sense of the word.

But then, when I tried to leave a comment on your blog, Google interrupted and told me that the site was unsafe. I hope you're not a scammer, dude? Anyway, I'll do a Malware scan on my laptop right now to make sure everything's hunky dory....