Tuesday, April 21, 2020

1BR: The New Tenant

The standard of living in LA is pretty tough. The real estate market there is nearly as bad as it is here in New York, but you also really need a car. That is why an aspiring costume designer jumps at an affordable Hollywood apartment. Of course, there is a reason it looks too good to be true. There will be no lease-breaking in director-screenwriter David Marmor’s 1BR, which releases this Friday on VOD (because that is how things release these days—thanks CCP).

Sarah has come to Hollywood to pursue her designing dreams, but her dismissive father is convinced she will never make it. Her fellow temp also thinks she is a poor little lamb. However, Sarah’s new apartment is initially a source of encouragement, even though she is secretly keeping her cat in the pet-less complex. However, strange noises in the walls keep her up at nights. It even starts effecting her work and studies. Then things take a massively dark turn.

1BR starts off like an unnerving Polanski film, but it evolves into something altogether different and creepy. So far, everyone has respected the film’s secrets, but it might be the year’s best cinematic critique of coercive collectivism, so far. Let’s just say terms “security” are used in ways that will make you decidedly not feel secure.

It is also a viscerally intense genre film. Frankly, there are some scenes that are almost too tough to watch. Nevertheless, it is worth the fortitude, because Marmor’s subsequent revelations are jaw-dropping—and squirm-inducing.

Nicole Brydon Bloom really helps sell the premise as Sarah. She doesn’t take viewers on a typical empowerment arc, but it is a believably real and enormously compelling ride. Likewise, Taylor Nichols (from Whit Stillman’s Metropolitans and Barcelona) and Susan Davis (David Lightman’s mom in WarGames) are terrific as Sarah’s very different neighbors.

This is the kind of film that requires a lot of tip-toeing around when reviewing, but just keep in mind, 1BR is not what you probably think when it is at its most brutal. It is actually unusually challenging for genre cinema. Very highly recommended, 1BR releases this Friday (4/24) on VOD platforms, including iTunes.