The Million Dollar Hotel

Blood on their hands: Agent Skinner (Gibson) consoles Eloise (Jovovich) in the wake of a suicide...
dir Wim Wenders scr Nicholas Klein
with Jeremy Davies, Mel Gibson, Milla Jovovich, Donal Logue, Jimmy Smits, Peter Stormare, Amanda Plummer, Gloria Stuart, Bud Cort, Julian Sands, Richard Edson, Tim Roth
Icon 00/US 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
There's a certain magnetic genius to The Million Dollar Hotel, set in a seedy dive in downtown L.A. where the dregs of society collect. The film gleefully flouts cinematic traditions with its quirky collection of characters, a vicious streak of black humour and a storyline that comes across as completely unhinged but ends up being darkly moving. And while it's far too uneven to be a great film, it's such an original that you can't take your eyes off the screen, even as it drags itself to a two-hour running time.

The central character is Tom Tom (Davies), a mentally unstable resident of the title hotel, which is full of refugees from a mental hospital. While mourning the suicide of his best friend, Tom is obsessed with the elusive Eloise (Jovovich), who considers herself just as fictional as the characters in the novels she's always reading. Then a pair of FBI agents (Gibson and Logue) arrive to investigate the suicide, which they claim was murder. And the hotel residents decide to play with the agents' heads.

There's not a "normal" person in this film, but what strikes you immediately is that the world is actually full of people just like this. And more importantly, the script (based on a story by U2's Bono, who also produced the film and wrote some of the score) lets us glimpse ourselves in each one. Davies is kinetic and very funny, especially as he locks horns with Gibson's character, who's a hilarious bundle of nerves himself. Yes, it's extremely contrived ... and you get the feeling that every person, situation and line of dialog is supposed to mean something. But the details are delightful (Storemare's character thinks he's the lost Beatle; his dialog is a hilarious string of lyrics), Wenders once again directs with an eye for original and telling imagery, and overall the film does indeed say something quite intriguing. Just the tonic for when Hollywood's formulaic approach to storytelling starts to get you down.

[15--themes, language, violence] 17.Apr.00
UK release 28.Apr.00; US release 2.Feb.01

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall