Friday, September 17, 2021

Weekend Screen Scene: Best Sellers, Apartment 413

There's nothing very surprising in the comedic drama Best Sellers to anyone who has seen...any movie ever, but it manages to rise slightly above its predictability through the strength of its performances.

Aubrey Plaza stars as Lucy, a book editor struggling to keep the publishing house her father has left her from failing, with a buyout seemingly the only solution. When she discovers an aging Pulitzer Prize winning author owes the house another book, she see's this as a possible path to profitability.

Enter Michael Caine as Harris Shaw, an aging, alcoholic recluse who never published anything past his first award winning tome. You can probably guess what happens from here. Fights; reluctance; unexpected viral success; a record number of utterances of the word "bullshite." (OK, that last one is probably a little less predictable a plot point.)

Michael Caine is 88 years old, and I'm not going to sugar coat it: you can tell. But he's still got a lot of fire in him, and even if he needs to do a lot of his screaming from the comfort of a bed or a chair, he manages to command almost every moment of his screen time. Plaza holds her own aside him, shedding her trademarked deadpan delivery for much of the film, particularly in the one scene that features a genuinely unexpected plot point. If nothing else, Best Sellers allows Caine to prove he's got at least one more Award-winning performance in him, should a slightly better script come along.

 Best Sellers is currently playing in select theaters and is available to rent online.

There's something not quite right in apartment 413, judging from the inexplicable murder that takes place inside its walls at the film's beginning. Several months later, Marco (Nicholas Saenz) and Dana (Brea Grant) are the latest residents of the claustrophobic one bedroom apartment in Austin, Texas. Marco is struggling to find a job before Dana has their first child, although most of the potential jobs that return his calls end up being...weirdly hostile.

When mysterious notes and an ancient cell phone show up in the apartment, Marco is convinced someone is out to get him, though he has a hard time convincing Dana, who is more concerned with his lack of employment. Director Matt Patterson takes full advantage of the tight filming quarters, arranging the furniture at weird angles, so that nothing ever really looks or feels normal in Marco and Dana's home.

Saenz's performance is suitably intense, with a few moments of levity (although we never really see what a completely sane Marco ever really looked like for comparison). Apartment 413 is another film that, while not about Covid, or even filmed during the past two years of the pandemic, still manages to benefit from our collective experience, depicting a kind of cabin fever and fear of the future that is, while not universal, is surely recognizable.

Apartment 413 is now available to purchase via digital download and is streaming on Amazon Prime.

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