DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on the Smart, Sexy Romantic Drama “28 Hotel Rooms”

28-hotel-rooms

Posted by on

Every year, the Sundance Film Festival serves as a launching pad and seal of approval for worthy indie fare, and this January’s festival was no different, introducing the world to films like “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “The Sessions,” “Sleepwalk With Me” and “Safety Not Guaranteed.” But sometimes, great movies fall through the cracks, and one of this year’s festival’s very best offerings is about ready to arrive in theaters. (It’s already available On Demand and through iTunes.) It’s a beautiful romantic drama called “28 Hotel Rooms.” When I saw it in January, I was pretty sure I loved it. Watching the film again recently, I’m convinced.

The plot of the movie, which is the feature debut of writer-director Matt Ross, is right there in the title. A rising-star novelist (Chris Messina) and a married accountant (Marin Ireland) hook up one night, having passionate sex in a hotel room. It would seem like a one-time thing — he lives in New York and she lives in Seattle — but they run into each other at another hotel later and decide to continue the affair. Thus begins a series of 28 hotel encounters that trace the arc of their unlikely relationship.

With a running time of just 82 minutes — and that includes five minutes of end credits — “28 Hotel Rooms” has several narrative quirks that add to its compelling design. For starters, we only see these characters in their encounters with each other in the different hotel rooms. We never see her husband, nor know his name, and we also have little idea about his girlfriend that he has in New York. We don’t even know the main characters’ names. The film’s habit of withholding information extends to where the characters are when they’re having their affairs, how long it’s been since their previous encounter, and also how long precisely their affair runs. “28 Hotel Rooms” exists entirely in what the characters might consider their parallel reality: a world of high-end hotels where they can escape their real lives and enjoy these brief, sexually-charged flings. Everything outside the hotel rooms is a mystery, a separate zone that’s off limits to each other and to us in the audience.

The film’s construction may remind some of “Same Time, Next Year,” a 1970s play turned into a movie that featured two married individuals who have a standing annual date to carry on their affair in a small California resort. But unlike that work, “28 Hotel Rooms” isn’t interested in making its characters be representatives of America’s shifting social values. Rather, Ross just wants to focus on these two individuals and their bond, examining how their clandestine relationship affects each of them over time.

Of the two actors, Messina is the better known: He was the supportive husband to Amy Adams in “Julie & Julia,” and he’s appeared on TV shows as different as “Damages” and “The Mindy Project.” Here, he plays a man who isn’t your typical one-night-stand sort of guy. From the beginning, you get the sense that he feels something for this married woman, even though she’s a bit withholding about what goes on in her life. (And because we never see them away from the hotels, we have to take the few clues we get into their worlds at face value.) Messina’s counterpart, Ireland, isn’t quite as high-profile, although she was a part of the “Mildred Pierce” miniseries and appeared on “Homeland.” (This summer, she played the daughter of Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep in “Hope Springs,” a nice piece of casting because Ireland bears a slight resemblance to Streep, particularly her sad, smiling eyes.) Ireland’s “28 Hotel Rooms” character is less emotionally available than he is. That’s in part because she’s married, but over time we begin to understand that it goes beyond that: She’s simply a distant person, although she’s incredibly warm and loving at the same time. In lesser hands, “28 Hotel Rooms” would be a schematic study of opposites — he’s an artist, she’s a businesswoman; he’s impulsive, she’s practical — but Ross and his cast love these characters too much to look at them as types.

Last year, we got not one but two Hollywood romantic comedies about unconventional no-strings-attached relationships: sex without the tedium of being boyfriend and girlfriend. “No Strings Attached” and “Friends With Benefits” both tried to flaunt their modern twist on typical boy-meets-girl love stories — it was meant to seem “sexy” and “naughty” — but they ended up as traditional in their attitudes as a Kate Hudson rom-com. The characters in “28 Hotel Rooms” travel down a somewhat similar path — their early encounters are filled with nudity and sexual banter, while their later meet-ups often consist of emotional, substantial conversations with their clothes on — but there’s a nuance to the story’s arc that makes its trajectory far from predictable. And it’s also an incredibly sexy film, not just because of the nudity but because of the intelligent, grownup construction of these two characters. He and she are smart, articulate, sophisticated people, and they have a warm rapport that feels genuine to the way couples actually behave, even if this particular relationship is far from normal. “28 Hotel Rooms” never judges its characters because of their affair, and in this way it’s actually nervier than those other recent movies, in which there really weren’t any emotional stakes.

When I saw “28 Hotel Rooms” back in January, I was quite taken by its structure, its performances and the subtle way in which it explores how all relationships begin with such passion but then must evolve if they’re going to last. Revisiting the film, I felt the same way, but I was surprised by another reaction: I had missed these people — not the actors, per see, but these two characters. Without realizing it, they had stayed in my mind for months, and I relished the opportunity to relive their hotel adventures. They make each other laugh, and they make each other cry, and they might not survive if they tried to end the charade and admit to their significant others that they’re in love. But I found myself rooting for them all over again, even though, as a married man myself, I probably shouldn’t be supporting such behavior. But I think that’s ultimately one of this film’s great strengths: It takes an adulterous relationship seriously enough that its contours become indistinguishable from any other romantic relationship. Musician Lou Reed once sang, “It always comes to this/It’s all downhill after the first kiss,” and it’s important to remember that he was in the midst of a long-term relationship when he wrote this lyric in an otherwise happy love song. All couples, no matter how contented they are, are always trying to keep a spark alive. In a sense, all relationships are their own self-contained mystery, unknowable to the outside world. With “28 Hotel Rooms,” we get a chance to peek inside one of them, and damn if it doesn’t speak to so many of our own.

Watch More
Bad Moms

Mother Muckers

Watch Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn Slam Motherhood in the Bad Moms Trailer

Catch Mila Kunis on That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays starting at 6P on IFC.

Posted by on
STX Entertiainment

They say that bringing a child into this world is the most treasured and life-fulfilling thing you can do. But once sacrificing all your time, energy, and money into a marginally grateful person wears thin, there’s not much left for fulfillment. And as three moms contending with carpools and PTA meetings, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn reject the entire notion of modern motherhood and vow to become Bad Moms, a new film by The Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Watch Mila Kunis and her pals join forces against motherhood and uptight school administrator Christina Applegate in the NSFW trailer below. And be sure to catch Mila in her younger days on That ’70s Show every Monday and Tuesday starting at 6P.

Watch More
Sally Kellerman- Maron – Season 4, Episode 5

Cheers to Mom

Send Mom Some Love With an IFC Mother’s Day Card

Give mom the gift of IFC this Mother's Day.

Posted by on

Ah, May. A month of blooming flowers, fluttering butterflies, and a shrieking barrage of guilt come Mother’s Day. But rather than bearing the brunt of shame and misery when you can’t see Mom this year, smooth things over with an official IFC Mother’s Day card. They say everything you’re too busy to say over the phone, like would it kill you to ever dial a number and talk to the woman who gave you life? And would it be the end of the world if you found a better job and settled down with someone nice? But no, it’s fine. She’ll make do with one of these cards, featuring characters from Portlandia, Maron and Comedy Bang! Bang!. Check them out below, and be good to mom this year.

Mother's Day Portlandia

Mother's Day Portlandia

Mother's Day Maron

Mother's Day CBB

Watch More
Marc Maron – Dave Anthony – Maron – Season 4, Episode 2

Snark Attack

5 Times Maron’s Dave Anthony Had the Perfect Response

Maron returns May 4th at 9P on IFC.

Posted by on

Dave Anthony, standup and podcaster extraordinaire, has stealthily become a one-liner machine on Maron, playing Marc’s deadpan “frenemy.” While Dave may often say the wrong thing, we always seem to relate to him in some secret, shameful way. Before you catch Dave on the season premiere of Maron this Wednesday, May 4th at 9P, check out a few times it felt like he was living our life — and messing it up just as much as we are.

1. That moment when we realize no one is listening to our podcast.

Maron Dave Anthony


2. Or when we remember that feelings are just nature’s way of saying it’s time to eat more ice cream.

Maron Dave Anthony


3. That feeling you get when you realize you’ll do anything if someone else is paying.

Maron Dave Anthony


4. For those times when we want to fight the power.

Maron Dave Anthony

Maron Dave Anthony

Maron Dave Anthony


5. And of course, for those times when we realize that life is about accomplishing the little things.

Maron Dave Anthony

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet