Apartment Troubles is kind of a throwback to a certain kind of indie movie that thrived in the late ’90s and early 2000s, especially as Sundance and IFC opened up space for them on the upper cable channels. Now, as independent film gets to be bigger and bigger business, video-on-demand releases are the movie world’s new off-off-broadway, which should be welcome news to fans of this sort of quirky, character-driven dramedy.
The film stars Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler — who also co-wrote and co-directed — as a pair of codependent roommates and artists with no ability to survive in anything approaching the real world. Olivia (Prediger) is an aspiring actress, while Nicole (Weixler) does more visual and conceptual work. They’re about to be evicted from their grey-market sublet in New York, for underpaying the rent. Frankly, it’s kind of amazing they’ve been able to pay anything at all.
They’re rather like the Brooklynites in Girls, actually. The cramped living spaces may be more typical for young city-dwellers than those on Friends, but they’ve got even less visible sources of income. At least on Girls it’s clear that some of these kids are basically living off of their parents’ largesse.
Nicole does have a wealthy family, but they don’t seem to be paying her rent. They do, however, have a private jet that she can use at a drop of a hat, so the two of them decide to head to Los Angeles where Olivia can audition for a TV talent show produced by, conveniently enough, Nicole’s aunt Kimberley (Megan Mullally). Oh, and they can stay at her mansion too. One downside: Kimberley takes a real liking to Olivia, and not during her audition.
The writing is, admittedly, slight. It’s really hard to root for characters who consist mostly of two entangled bundles of neuroses. But Weixler — probably best known for her starring role in Teeth, along with a strong résumé of character work — seems endlessly watchable. The Adderall-driven performance-art spin Nicole puts on Olivia’s recitation of excerpts from Chekhov’s The Seagull is hilarious, and easily the high-point of the movie. And while it’s predominantly a comedic piece, there’s some real pathos in here too. Mullally does a great job of balancing the two during her scenes with Predinger.
It’s far from a great film, but Apartment Troubles has its own quirky charm. It’s awkward and lumpy in places, but it has a truly honest voice that — like that of Girls, and other television shows and movies created by and aimed primarily at women — tends to get shouted down even among independent films these days. But the advances in movie distribution of the last few years mean it will find its way out to an audience, and someone in that audience is going to just love it and find it perfectly resonant with her life.
Worth It: for a rental.
Bechdel Test: pass.
This review also appears at Punch Drunk Critics.