Small Apartments

February 5, 2017

Is happiness a state of mind? Is it possible to overlook and blot out the grey in one’s life by imagining a happier place? Small Apartments paints a currently semi-depressed hermit in an otherwise ersatz dwelling unit, which is only speciously pleasant because of its abundance of sunshine. What lies within it are broken souls who don’t realize they are broken. The film doesn’t ponder on what caused the damage as much as it examines the wreckage pieces. But gladly, this does not leave one nauseous. There is enough of a thin lining of humor to make this a thoroughly solid attempt at black comedy.
 
It shares in independent irreverence in cinema by embracing an outlandish, almost cartoonish stock of characters. This is something appreciably cinematic and very difficult to imagine in literature and even theatre – the disbelief is difficult to imagine in the former, and implausible to maintain in the latter. What is sacrificed here, not necessarily but unfortunately, is actual depth to the imagination depicted. There is such a lopsided forward-stepping in the pace of the film that it ends quite half-baked. And this is mainly due to the difficulty in balancing an intriguing cast of characters with the eccentricity of the protagonist.
 
We don’t quite have revealed to us why he is the way he is: a slothful and slow creeper, more or less, heavily dependent on a smarter bigger brother who winds up insane. It perhaps is just his nature to be a simpleton, and this simplicity has a degree of innocence to it which provides a nice white illumination amidst the torrent of blackness that fills the screen. There is genuinely not one character who is happy, with the exception of a celebrity doctor.
 
Every character is deplorable. And it speaks to some degree to the utter dissatisfaction if not contempt for the Los Angeles cityscape by the screenwriter. The Shangri-La, after all, is another world away. Even for one of the tenants of the awful apartment complex, who dreams of making it big by stripping in Vegas, Los Angeles is not a happy place.
 
It’s hard to find a meaning to the film. The introductory question reveals some aspect of the meditation that can be had, because of our protagonist, despite being in an environment which countless would complain about, never abandoned his dreaming. His fawning over for a better tomorrow. Perhaps that’s what is nestled amidst this blackened stew: that this too shall pass.
 
Grade: C+

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