Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Motel Life

I was expecting something a bit more like a thriller from this movie based on its description, and was in fact going to use it as a platform to talk about the sort of theater I'd like to open someday, but it wound up being a mostly-capable indie drama, so it doesn't fit the profile. Another time.

It is sort of notable for where and how it opened up, in the 48-person #6 screen at the Capitol, which is mostly used for movies on their last legs or for small-group rentals. I think it was the only open-to-the-public screening on that screen Saturday, unless something from the Boston Jewish Film Festival either used it or bumped something else there earlier in the day (unlikely, since the festival doesn't have screenings Friday night to observe the Sabbath, and I think that would extend until sundown on Saturday). At any rate, there were still birthday decorations hanging by the door and tables out in the raised platform behind the theater seats.

There was no studio logo before the movie, just that of the Polsky Brothers' production company Polsky Films, so I guess it didn't sell for theatrical distribution, which isn't necessarily surprising - it's an average-ish movie with interesting names but none that will draw an audience on their own. I suspect, though, that "same day as in theaters" gets a movie a little more attention on video on demand, so why not rent out a few small rooms in big enough cities to let it look good? It's not a bad plan, especially since it's not a bad movie. Just one that isn't going to stand out from a crowd otherwise.

The Motel Life

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 8 November 2013 at the Capitol Theatre #6 (first-run/four-walled, digital)

The Motel Life isn't quite a lot of filler packed around one great moment - it is, really, a watchable indie drama, so when the scene the audience will remember comes, they aren't likely to weigh that bit of good acting against a slog getting to it. This movie doesn't always quite come together, but it also never falls apart.

Frank Flanagan (Emile Hirsch) lives in a motel room in Reno, Nevada, and from the way the characters talk over the course of the movie, one gets the impression that he's been living in motel rooms for a long time. He's also been looking after his brother Jerry Lee (Stephen Dorff) since their mother died when they were just barely teenagers, and this time Jerry Lee has screwed up good, hitting a kid with his car and driving off. So it's time to find a new motel room, although disposing of the car and dealing with another result of Jerry Lee's instability makes Elko seem further off.

Why Elko? Well, the only girl Frank ever loved, Annie James (Dakota Fanning), lives there now, and while Jerry Lee will eventually point out that the bedtime stories Frank tells reveal some unresolved issues in a way that the audience can't miss, there's no-one else drawing them to any particular place rather than from one. We see through scattered flashbacks that Annie's family seemed to have lived the same sort of itinerant life as the Flanagans, and I can't help but wonder if maybe Willy Vlautin's original novel ges into it more, just based on the title. Instead, the Flanagans' history seems a bit like Frank's stories and Jerry Lee's pictures, anecdotes that each reflect the men that they became but which are separate from each other.

Full review at EFC.

No comments: