A Nymphotic Underdog
Director: Matt Ross Stars: Marin Ireland, Chris Messina Genre: Drama
A novelist (Messina) and an accountant (Ireland) meet while they are traveling for work, and while they both are in relationships, their one-night stand could become something more.
This is pretty much all that needs to be said in terms of synopsis. The films plot-line is as simple as its setting: hotel rooms (aka cheat-suites). If you have seen the films Same Time Next Year or Room in Rome, you have a bit of an idea as to what you’re getting into with this one.
In films- even ones based in fiction- there are at times honesty, and hints of truthfulness. Low-budget or indie films seem to be the best at showing the finest and worst behavioral traits of people through the raw and gritty way they seem to be captured on these productions.
At first glance, 28 Hotel Rooms looks like it’s just about two jagoffs having an affair. A film that’s just nothing more, and nothing less, than 82 minutes of soft-core Red Shoe Diaries esq porn; devoid of it actually being classified as such. This would be a valid assumption for sure my fellow reader. However, beyond the scenes of Messina and Ireland gnawing at each other’s ‘pelvic pleasure palaces’, and F*ing each other as if a giant comet were about to turn the world into a glass parking lot; the film takes a deeper look at love, relationships, and the systems to which trap us all.
28 Hotel Rooms never gives us context or insight into how these two frisky professionals exactly came together. The empty hypothesis that I was left with, given by the increasing affections between the two, suggests what we’re seeing is a chronological account of a relationship. At first, she (Ireland) resists his (Messina) charms, which involve incessant gum-flapping and insistent body language, mostly in an attempt to pry whatever he can from a woman frozen in silence, and sensually withholding.
After a third or fourth hotel room “date” (we never leave the hotels, and we get the sense they don’t either), she opens up, and the two share flirty back and forth’s. The sex is matter-of-fact, and the film generates considerably more heat, as recognizable couples often do, when the clothing is back on. She remains somewhat modest, as we learn there is a Hubby back at home, and a late admittance that she considers herself a “bad person” is met with a perplexed stare by her male F-buddy. Though we learn he is also beholden to a girlfriend (apparently not nearly as serious), he can’t resist every opportunity he can get to disrobe this girl. He’s boastful about his bedroom prowess and even comments upon the aesthetic pleasures of his own member, and the knowledge he’s cuckolding another man even emboldens him as the hotel room bills pile up.
There is honesty in this relationship (if you can believe it), the way that his need for validation folds into hers, and how it evolves, even as her home away from these hotel rooms begins to take a more tentative shape. Both are in denial, both are hurting the ones they love, and both secretly believe it could never work between them. Despite this being a dialogue-heavy affair, most of this is expressed through the actors’ physicality: Ireland is like a wilting flower, cat-like and intimidated by the attendance of her gentleman caller. Messina, a sugar-free actor with limited range, overcompensates with chest-pounding and overzealousness.
Chris Messina has probably played this role a few too many times before, it’s probably a mistake to confuse him with the smirking idiot writer he plays here. His performance is unnervingly accurate and self-deprecating.
One of the movie’s points is that when you are cocooned with your lover, intoxicated and infatuated, you don’t care much about the rest of the world – and what the people you presumably care more about don’t know doesn’t hurt them. This is wonderfully illustrated through how the characters (at first) don’t care that they’ve trap themselves in hotel rooms; beyond the world of fresh air and home cooked meals.
The film overall on the street has received sub-par, if not extremely negative reviews. Where this movie falters is that even as it is only 82 minutes long, the film’s conceit grows a bit stale, and ultimately the whole thing feels more like an acting workshop than a full-fledged human story. However, the film is an interesting take and is an incisive examination on how every love affair eventually comes with strings attached. The film is raw, honest, and from this viewers perspective goes beyond seeing two people emotionally masturbating about their seemly selfish and immoral situation.
So go check it out on your Netflix or Cogeco movie cable package, and enjoy seeing these two love-jays struggle with commitment; even when they are already in committed relationships.
It’s all ironically comical.