“Apartment 1303” is a remake of a Japanese movie, set in Detroit, about very sad white people.
The movie opens with a young white woman (Janet) walking down a city street enthusing over the phone about the super great awesome apartment she just rented. The young white woman she’s speaking to (Lara) scolds her for taking the very first apartment she sees. Janet is undeterred, and apparently using Lara’s money for the deposit, even though she’s got a full time job that pays her money. Janet, without enough money of her own to pay her own deposit + first month’s rent, hires a moving company to pack and move her stuff for her. She hauls her own little wheeled suitcase into her building, which is covered in graffiti and has abandoned, trashed furniture littering the lobby. What a GREAT apartment! Janet, you make the BEST life choices. Did you actually visit the apartment building, or just hear about what it looked like from the leasing agent? Do decrepit buildings filled with abandoned furniture and graffiti usually HAVE leasing agents? She sees a white girl in a school-type uniform in the lobby as she’s taking the elevator up to the 13th floor (her floor). As she gets off the elevator she sees the same girl, who she hails as “little girl.” The girl, Emily, tells her to clear out.
If you’re wondering why I’m harping on race in this review, it’s because Detroit is over 80% Black, with most white people living in the affluent suburbs and not in down town. However, most movies set in Detroit feature predominantly white casts, just as most news articles about Brave Bold Gentrifiers and Urban Gardeners etc focus on white people and not the Black folks who’ve lived in Detroit for generations. The folks who made this movie made a choice to 1) set it in Detroit and 2) center the story on white people. They made a lot of other frankly baffling choices as well.
Janet dismisses this and lets herself into her apartment, which is incredibly Japanese-looking (paper screened walls, etc), has appliances from the 1970s, and a view of an industrial corridor (“a great view!!!”). She puts some framed photographs of herself and Lara (her sister) onto the kitchen counter/island and tries to open a bottle of wine but doesn’t know how to use a corkscrew. She eventually sorts her shit out and gulps down a massive glass of wine while crying.
Janet spends most of her time in the movie whimpering or crying.
The lights go out twice her first night, her landlord tries to creep on her and force his way into her apartment, her boyfriend is nasty to her. She has nightmares, takes sleeping pills, dreams that she’s literally thrown around the apartment. The next day she talks about “all her bruises” and a coworker/friend comments on facial bruising and accuses her boyfriend of abusing her, and her of lying about the abuse which is… not a tactful or effective way of speaking to someone dealing with Intimate Partner Violence, y’know? Janet denies it all, and calls her sister to cry and talk about how she’s going to stay in a hotel. Lara says not to, because she (Lara) doesn’t have any money/has maxed out her credit card. Again, Janet is a grown woman with a job, relying on her sister to pay her bills.
I should note, here, that Janet and Lara’s mom (Maddie) is an abusive, alcoholic musician whose career is apparently on the decline. She’s had a DUI and is unable to drive, so Lara runs errands for her. Janet moved out because Maddie, while drunk, assaulted her… although Maddie claims Janet walked into her while she (Maddie) was playing guitar and got hit with the guitar. There is literally no reason for there to be an abusive back story for Janet and Lara. Like, Janet is a young woman living in a depressed economy. It would be totally normal for her to want to go out, rent her first apartment on her own, and not want to be some gross sad sack who goes running home when she gets creeped out living on her own. Nope! Women can’t exist in movies unless they are being abused in some ways. Right? Additionally, Maddie asks Lara if she’s been taking her medication because “you can do some sick things when you’re not on your medication.” So we’ve got a GREAT dose of lolcrazycaeks going on.
Long story short, Janet is killed by the ghost, her boyfriend is secretly an undercover cop, and Lara moves into Jan’s old place. A police detective dressed in street clothes who doesn’t bother showing her a badge leaves a file about the apartment with Lara, which is a totally realistic thing to do. He talks about the history of the apartment, implying there’s ghosts, except he totally doesn’t believe in ghosts. Secret-Cop-Boyfriend-Mark who was AT BEST distant towards Jan is incredibly concerned about Lara and spends the night with her several times “to protect her,” blowing off his ex-wife and his kid. Lara’s mom takes out a restraining order against her, yet continues to call her and also visits her. The ghost kills both Mark and Maddie, leaving Lara to get blamed for it. Emily and the superintendent are both ghosts. Blah blah blah. The end.
There’s no charm or subtlety to this movie, there’s a lot of ACTING, and all the women are weak sobbing victims or abusive and insane. I have a feeling the Japanese movie (and book) this is based on is a lot better.
I give this movie 1 out of 5 stars and will keep an eye out for the Japanese version.
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