Hollywood loves a good infidelity picture. That is perhaps the only thing they can be faithful about. One would think that, by now, everything that could be said about affairs would already have been explored, but, apparently, that won’t stop anyone from trying.
(NOTE: The following review may contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
A struggling young novelist (Chris Messina) and a corporate efficiency expert (Marin Ireland) meet in a hotel bar, and sparks ignite the chemistry between them. What begins as a one-night-stand develops into a cautionary tale told via spoken and sexual vignettes over the course of several years and the next 28 HOTEL ROOMS.
Get the picture?
Fortunately, nothing here feels all that exploitative – though it easily could’ve descended into such territory quickly – as the story of the Man and the Woman evolves from sex, to love, to sex, back to love again, with a bit more sex, then hate, then despair, then back to sex, then confusion, and (ultimately) viewers are merely left in limbo – a creative cop-out if ever there were by writer/director Matt Ross, better known as the creepy Alby Grant on HBO’s Mormon-lite drama “Big Love.” To dismiss it as just another picture about fidelity is not a slight to the effort as, unfortunately, that’s mostly what it is: just another picture about fidelity. No new territory gets covered; in fact, one could argue that the characters – a frazzled novelist-wannabe can’t quite get it together enough to be successful and the sexy urban professional who can’t quite find balance between work and home-life – have been explored to death in an endless parade of feature films that thumb their nose at the American Dream.
Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that much of Ross’s dialogue works very well, and that’s equally due to the talents of Messina and Ireland. They inhabit these characters with some accomplished yet subtle charm, so it’s easy to understand why audiences might grow smitten with them, just as they’re becoming smitten with one another. The central question – will they or won’t they ever find a way to truly ‘be’ together – never gets any real exploration; in fact, that’s what Ross chooses to leave audiences with in the finale. Maybe he – and his talent – thought that was the way to go, but isn’t it obvious that they won’t? When you spend almost 90 minutes exploring two characters who repeatedly prove they can’t be faithful to themselves individually, nor their respective families, how are we as an audience ever to accept that they can be faithful to one another? It’s a farce – presented as a respectable drama and delivered with the winning premise that quite probably grew out of a solid stage play – but, in the end, it’s still a bit of a ridiculous conceit.
Good performance piece. Otherwise, that about sums it up.
28 HOTEL ROOMS is produced by Mott Street Pictures, OneZero Productions, Silverwood Films, and Sundial Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled by Oscilloscope Laboratories. As for the technical specifications, the picture looks and sounds quite probably as well as any independent production could, should, or would. Unfortunately, I was provided only a screener copy, so I’ve no way to know (or comment upon) any special features as there were none included on the disk; a film commentary certainly would be nice – or perhaps a conversation between the actors given the highly personal nature of the storytelling.
RECOMMENDED. Filmmakers love to explore infidelity, and 28 HOTEL ROOMS has been done before though perhaps not with two talented, youthful actors. I almost feel as if the motion picture needs a printed forward text that reads “nothing new was learned in the production of the film.” However, it’s a breezy way to spend 82 minutes, though audiences might come away equally frustrated as these characters were. One might even question why writer/director Ross never went so far as to pen a more succinct conclusion as, at least, I felt the characters deserved one.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Oscilloscope Laboratories provided me with a DVD screener of 28 HOTEL ROOMS by request for the expressed purpose of completing this review.