Joe’s Apartment (review)

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A Room with a View — Only $1500 a Month

Please don’t get me wrong. I hate cockroaches. They are the vilest of all creatures. Disgusting things. Can’t abide ’em. Yuck. And yet Joe’s Apartment (starring Jerry O’Connell) is one of the cutest movies I’ve ever seen. It tells an old-fashioned kind of story: boy meets bugs, boy meets girl, girl meets bugs, girls leaves boy, bugs win back girl, boy finally gets girl. The army of cockroaches that befriends Joe sing for our viewing pleasure — they also cuss, dance, surf, and perform other absurd feats. A silly film altogether, and just plain fun.
Joe’s Apartment is another New York movie (like this week’s other feature, Mimic), and like so many other movies set in that great city, it gets many things wrong. (We New Yorkers are a cantankerous lot — no news flash there — and we get especially peeved when a movie distorts basic geography, as Men in Black did when it implied that the Guggenheim Museum is around the corner from Grand Central Terminal. It isn’t.) But one thing that Joe’s Apartment gets right is Joe’s apartment.

Movies and television shows almost never depict realistic New York apartments. Law & Order (one of my favorite tv shows) often shows middle-class New Yorkers living in multiple spacious rooms with gorgeous views. The luxury flat that a gardener and unemployed illegal immigrant occupy in Green Card (stupid movie) borders on ridiculous. Even Mimic, which I mostly liked, has a shoeshine man living in a sunny apartment with a kitchen big enough to have a dining table in. This does not happen in New York.

But Joe’s apartment was perfect in its tenement-ness. The impossible climb up five winding flights of stairs. The bathtub in the kitchen. The window facing the air shaft. The ancient refrigerator. Ah, it brought back memories of my first apartment on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, in a building built before the Spanish-American war, which still had the old jets for gaslights in the hallway.

Let me tell you, this was a great place to live. That old railroad flat with its crumbling exposed bricks and the toilet in a water closet in the bedroom sure beat the boxlike studios friends of mine lived in. Humans were not meant to live in 200 square feet.

So why don’t films give the moviegoer the real scoop on New York apartments? Well, when they do, as in Joe’s Apartment, it’s presented as so absurd that it verges on unbelievable. Perhaps it’s time we shed some more light on New York’s dirty little secret. I’m calling for all New Yorkers to throw open their tiny windows and yell out, “I’m mad as hell at how my standard of living is exaggerated in the media, and I’m not going to take it any more!”

Or not. Whatever.

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