by David Cornelius
Alex is a struggling artist whose girlfriend dumps him the same day he’s rejected by a local art gallery. Despondent and dejected, he moves into a low rent apartment complex in Hollywood, the kind with a kooky neighbor in every room. And that’s where he meets Lori, the sweet neighbor who just might get him back on his romantic feet.You’ve seen this movie before. Or have you? “Apartment 12” actually manages to change things up a bit by making Alex the world’s worst boyfriend. Nice touch.
"A nice reworking of some very old material."
Starring as Alex is Mark Ruffalo, who made the film in his early days (it ran on the festival circuit in 2001 under the title “Life/Drawing”), and he has the handle on his character: think of everything you’ve ever done wrong in a relationship, and Alex does it here. He and writers Dan Bootzin and Elizabeth Rivera Bootzin (he also directed, she produced) find great comedy in Alex’s lowest moments, such as the scene where Alex, convinced that his ex wants him back, winds up crying hysterically all the way home, smiley face balloons by his side. Ruffalo is unafraid to play the fool, and it pays off.
Where the film takes a turn away from the familiar is once Alex and Lori get together. Yes, the movie uses the standard formula of pushing the romantic leads apart so they can wind up together by the closing credits. Except here, it’s Alex’s own stupidity that winds up separating them - and it’s his own jealousy that causes trouble for him later on. (As for that last thing: do they get back together? The movie’s just clever enough that you’re never sure. And I’m certainly not going to tell you.)
There’s an honesty in how Alex behaves that’s refreshing to see in a romantic comedy. Usually movies tend to make love and romance and relationships seem so effortless in their sunshiny lollipop wonderfulness. Here, however, there is nothing but mistake after mistake after terrible, terrible mistake. Granted, some of these mistakes lead the film into unnecessary farce territory, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay if it means watching a romantic comedy about a guy who pretty much fouls everything up the same way you and I have done. (Well, I know I have. I’m only guessing about you. But looking at you now, I’d say yeah, you’ve been there, too.)
The colorful cast of characters, which could have wound up being clumsy and trite, instead actually works to add a bit of quirky charm to the proceedings. They’re caricatures, yes, not at all original, but the cast pulls it off in a way that we don’t quite mind.
The best reason, however, to see “Apartment 12” is jaw-droppingly adorable Beth Ulrich, who comes to the screen with charisma to spare and a smile to die for. She plays Lori, and while her character is a bit overwritten at times (she has a thing for guns, she’s always misusing words), Ulrich makes it all work. It’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen once she’s on it - the kind of star every romantic comedy should have in its corner.Which begs the question: if this movie was made some five years ago, where has she been since? This is a woman who demands to be seen. And what of the Bootzins, who show a commendable ability to make some fine movie moments on a shoestring budget? For all its flaws (mostly cliché-related), “Apartment 12” is a solid little work that should have been a nice career starter for all involved. Now that it’s being repackaged for the video market, perhaps more people will finally pay attention. Better late than never.
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originally posted: 02/02/06 19:57:06