Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chris Messina shines (again); Marin Ireland, too, in Matt Ross' smart stunt film, 28 HOTEL ROOMS

As good as this movie is (and it is often very), you also must admit to yourself that its concept remains something of a stunt. Seeing two people -- even actors as hot-damn good as Chris Messina and Marin Ireland -- playing characters whom we see only during their many trysts in hotel rooms all over this country (and who knows where else) is a clever idea that allows for a lot of fun and games but not the chance to see this man and woman in other ways that might complete them. (But then, that's perhaps the whole point: Their own sense of each other as rounded human beings must be quite incomplete.) In its way, 28 HOTEL ROOMS reminds you of Same Time Next Year with people who've decided, Hell, why wait for next year?  It also may bring to mind the French film An Affair of Love (Une liaison pornographique), with its needy but skewed liaison.

The writer/director (who's much better known as an actor), Matt Ross, does a commendable job of pulling us in via short, sharp scenes that feature all kinds of lovemaking and dialog that is never more expository that the real thing might be. This helps keep us glued to the characters and what they'll let slip. There's little sense, going in, that they will want this odd affair to continue, and yet, as it does, we know that it will -- and must. Before too long, and as they grow more comfortable and even a little... maybe... bored, whoa: They're beginning to act like an old married couple!

Well, why not? They are married (eventually): Just not to each other. We learn a little about their significant others but a lot more about their careers. He's a successful writer (he met her on the book tour for his first hit novel); she's some kind of corporate "accountant" who takes her job a lot more seriously than he takes it. (The scene during which their biggest fight occurs has to do with their "work" and its respective importance.)

In film like this one, so very much depends on the quality of the performers, and I don't think you could ask for a better pair. TrustMovies has previously called Mr. Messina (above) a kind of versatile "everyman." He's capable of so much, though he often ends up in good ensemble movies, in which he fits like one of the fingers in the proverbial glove. Not since Ira & Abby has he had a role this good, this demanding, or this well-written, and he is terrific in it. His is a brave performance, at full throttle inwardly and outwardly, too. (For a change, there's as much full-frontal male nudity here as female, and yes, Messina looks as good unclothed as clothed.)

Ms Ireland (above, in tight close-up) matches in bravery her co-star word for word, action for action. She's always an interesting actress, making choices that are sometimes unexpected but that most often work. Delicate but steely when required, she creates a memorably caring, confused, anguished and angry character.

The movie tackles the thorny question of how we can love more than one person fully and successfully -- and what happens when we try. If I called the film a kind of stunt in my opening paragraph, it is one that is done so well that I don't think you'll mind. In the filmmaker's choice of what and what not to show us (as above), these odd and circumscribed lives open up slowly and sadly, with but an occasional flash of humor. And just about the time we're beginning to grow restive and thus realize that -- pace Mr Beckett -- This can't go on. This will go on, suddenly, quietly, the movie ends.

28 Hotel Rooms -- from Oscilloscope and running just 82 minutes -- is available to stream via Netflix and can also be seen via Amazon Instant Video and on DVD.

No comments: