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motel life
Click for full sized poster

The Motel Life

Starring Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson
Screenplay by Noah Harpster, Micha Fitzerman-Blue
Based on novel by Willy Vlautin
Directed by Alan Polsky, Gabriel Polsky

IN SHORT: a perfect film student movie. [Not Rated . 85 minutes]

We have a small segment of our reading audience that loves films like The Motel Life, all of whom should read the final paragraph of this review. For as much as we blast films that follow the "as taught in film school" mode, this one was an excellent take.

As a dumb teen, orphan Jerry Lee Flannigan (Stephen Dorff) lost a leg. The disability doesn't keep him, as the adult we meet in The Motel Life, from driving a car, though in the film's opening minutes he will run over and kill a child. Jerry Lee and brother Frank (Emile Hirsch) flee Reno -- Frank had been supporting the pair as a used car salesman, with a boss (Kris Kristofferson) who behaves like as a father to the young man, something far more understandable once you see the opening minutes of the film -- and settle in a motel room in Elko (Nevada). With $500 cash and a gold plated Winchester rifle to their collective name, Frank attempts to make a new life for himself by reconnecting with former girlfriend Annie (Dakota Fanning), while Jerry Lee festers in the motel. Annie has her own difficult backstory weighing her down as well.

The Law, of course, is hunting down a hit and run driver, which generates more tension than you think. Each character has a complete story and, as strange as it may sound, may be why such a well constructed film fails for us. The crosses that all characters bear are just too much to allow for any kind of -- we're not even expecting "joyful" resolution. We'd settle for a deep breath - hold - and slow release kind of satisfactory resolution of at least some of this film's story.

We can't be more specific. The Motel Life is not a bad sit at all. It just releases in the first week of a deluge of Oscar-wannabe releases and will probably be drowned. We apologize -- there have been three more films screened by this writer since seeing The Motel Life. We're just blotto.

It's a well-made, serious film. See it.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Motel Life, he would have paid . . .


If you are of the mind set that you prefer to do post screening examination, evaluation and discussion of the fine points of a carefully crafted, serious film . . . perhaps over a cup of cappuccino or espresso, then you're going to be dumbfounded that we haven't rated The Motel Life as a perfect, and perfectly crafted and executed, film. That's what film festivals are spouting. It is all well and good but this site doesn't write for those that examine, evaluate et cetera. Which is why our readers would be better of waiting to rent or get VOD

amazon com link Click to buy films by Alan and Gabriel Polsky
Click to buy films starring Dakota Fanning
Click to buy films starring Emile Hirsch
Click to buy films starring Kris Kristofferson

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.