REVIEW: 28 Hotel Rooms

8 11 2012

There are times when “28 Hotel Rooms” feels like all too familiar of a movie.  The fragmented narrative, giving us a glance into the lives of a man and a woman (Chris Messina and Marin Ireland) when they rendez-vous at a hotel for a tryst, recalls 2011’s “One Day.”  The audience is left to fill in what happens between scenes A and B, sometimes rewarding but often just frustrating.

And most of Messina and Ireland’s conversations might have been ripped out of a Woody Allen movie from the 1980s where a man and a woman are madly and passionately in love … but are married to someone else.  The body and heart are willing, but their soul lacks the determination to do anything.  Again, at times, it provides a unique look into contemporary stasis in the face of decisive moments.  But at others, it just feels like lazy writing.

So what makes “28 Hotel Rooms” worth a watch?  Well, there’s the acting.  Marin Ireland, an emerging star, does a fine job, but she’s dwarfed by her co-star. I’ve been a big fan of Chris Messina for several years now because he has always delivered in supporting roles such as a distraught adoptive father in “Away We Go,” a supportive husband in “Julie & Julia,” and a charming love interest in “Celeste and Jesse Forever.”

Over the past summer, I finally called on Hollywood to bump him up to lead status, particularly after totally stealing the otherwise forgettable “Ruby Sparks.”  His audition tape just came in the form of “28 Hotel Rooms.”

He’s raw and affecting whether being drunk, naked, and rowdy atop a hotel roof or professing his unrequited love.  While I don’t think Chris Messina’s nudity was all that necessary to the movie, going full frontal is definitely one way to show your commitment.  So come on, casting agents, directors, and whomever is responsible for awarding parts – you have one hell of a leading man waiting in the wings.

Writer/director Matt Ross keeps the film an interesting viewing experience by using all sorts of differing techniques for each scene.  Some are beautiful, touching, and romantic; others are animalistic in their sexuality, making us feel as smutty as if we were watching voyeuristic pornography.  The editing rhythms, alternating freely between long takes and quick cuts, also add to the fun.  It’s a bit uneven at times; perhaps a better title would have been “28 Short Films About the Same People Having Sex and Other Problems in Hotels.”  Woody Allen got away with titles that long, so why can’t Ross?  B-


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