' ' Cinema Romantico: Hotel Noir

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hotel Noir

My favorite place in all of New York City is The Algonquin Hotel, which opened the same year the first Rose Bowl was played (i.e. 1902), gathering spot for many hard-drinking writers of yore. Every time I visit I have to set aside at least one evening for at least one drink in the lobby and it totally doesn't matter if that Rusty Nail costs a cool $16 (not including tip) because it always tastes of scotch, drambuie and euphoria. Part of the reason I adore the Algonquin so is because every time you sit there amidst the wood paneling and wingback chairs, you feel as if you've flashed back to the 30's. And that maybe, just maybe, if you put down your drink and started wandering the halls of the hotel itself you would start seeing in black & white and run into gruff dudes in fedoras smoking indoors and gangster's molls talking exclusively in dry witticisms and hey! Is that Lauren Bacall whistling?!

"Hotel Noir", a simultaneous On Demand/Theatrical release from writer/director Sebastain Gutierrez, however, feels less like its characters slipped through a portal into the real Los Angeles of 1958, then a more shadowy "Tony n' Tina's Wedding", modern day environmental theater done in black and white.

Opening with a superfluous passage involving part-time narrator Eugene (Danny DeVito), plumber, turning up to, ahem, fix Mandy Moore's shower (it's not as cool and/or lavisicious as it sounds), it segues into the meet-up of two complementary characters, Carla Gugino's crooner and Rufus Sewell's gumshoe (sigh...what a wonderful word...gumshoe), who indulge in a few after-hours cocktails and exchange their tales of woe. Hers involves a rageful ex doubling as a thief (Kevin Connolly) and his involves The Dream Girl Who Got Away (Malin Akerman, who at one point is glimpsed drinking scotch and smoking a cigarette, although - and I'm being complete honest here - she just doesn't know how to drink scotch and smoke simultaneously like Sienna Miller did) and the requisite suitcase of money and the bad guys who want it.

It would be easy to argue that "Hotel Noir" doesn't know "what it wants to be", except I think Gutierrez knows exactly what he wants his film to be. I think he wants it to be parody and homage at once, and that's highly difficult. As a parody it lacks the irreverent wit that, say, a Dan Harmon-produced episode of "Community" (can you imagine?) would bring to the table and as an homage it isn't dark or mean enough. Hell, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" was tougher.

The most distinct trait of the best film noirs is that ol' girl Fate, the fact that the guys and dolls always seemed convinced the whole ugly world was out to get them and that even when they decided to go all in on the inevitable Big Score that it was only a matter of time before they got called into Fate's office and received a pink slip. "Hotel Noir" is just too cutesy to be the real thing and too determined to be real to be really funny.

If Mitchum had checked into this hotel, he would have checked right back out.


Anonymous said...

What, a mention of Malin Akerman without a praise or swooning remark that follows?? I'm disappointed Nick! :)

I've never been to The Algonquin Hotel but now I REALLY want to visit! Bummer that this wasn't as good as I expected but I'd still give it a shot on account of Rufus in 50s clothing!

Nick Prigge said...

I have to be honest when I'm actually reviewing a movie and so even though it makes me sad, well, it's the truth. So it is.

Oh, The Algonquin is so awesome. You really do feel like you've flashed back in time. I love that place so much.