Chris Millis's movie "Small Apartments" is both peculiar and poignant
Here's an independent film with everything you never expected in a 90-minute story: a hero who spends the entire movie sans pants; his stoner neighbor who wears eyeliner and invents a project every day; his dream girl next door who has pink hair and wants to be a Vegas dancer; and his jerk of a landlord, who's dead.
The seeming homicide--or suicide--or accidental death of the evil landlord brings the attention of several cops (bumbling and otherwise) and a fire inspector with a clearer view of the situation than any of the players.
The players in Small Apartments are a surprising cast of Hollywood stars and fine actors moving up in the movie world. Lead Matt Lucas, who is British, though you would never know that from his perfect American accent, is best-known for "Little Britian,"a character-comedy sketch show he co-created. He's also played Tweedledum and Tweedledee in Johnny Depp's eccentric Alice in Wonderland, and Cousin Tom in Shaun of the Dead.
The stoner neighbor is played by Johnny Knoxville, and Billy Crystal, who had never before done an independent film, is the fire inspector. More characters are portrayed by James Caan, James Marsden, Amanda Plummer and Juno Temple, among others.
Lucas's pet is played by a spry little dog named Nugget. He has a great monologue.
Every character faces challenges throughout the story: surviving loss; reaching goals; changing in deep, painful ways. Quirky though they are, the movie's people tug at your heart. They may be so strange as to be startling, but you end by caring about them and cheering them on.
Native Saratogian Chris Millis wrote the novel on which Small Apartments is based at the 23rd annual International Three-Day Novel-Writing Contest, which he won in 2000. After the book rights were optioned, several years passed before casting and production began. Meanwhile, Millis got his master's in creative writing and wrote the book's screenplay himself.
He was on set every day during the 20-day shoot in Los Angeles, thrilled when Crystal told him, "You write good, kid. You’re funny."
See for yourself. Bring popcorn and Moxie cola.