The Motel Life (2014)
Directed by Alan Polsky and Gabe Polsky.
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning, Kris Kristofferson, Joshua Leonard, Andrew Lee, Garrett Backstrom, Dayton Callie, Jenica Bergere, Noah Harpster, Shae D'lyn, Hayes MacArthur, Scott MacArthur.
2014 85 minutes
Rated: (for sexual content, language, some nudity, brief violent images, and drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, May 30, 2014.
"The Motel Life" is a pedestrian, undeveloped indie clunker, its failure as a complete, satisfying story especially disappointing since the sibling relationship at its center could have been special with a better script. As the slightly younger, comparatively together Frank Flannigan and the troubled, handicapped Jerry Lee, Emile Hirsch (2013's "Prince Avalanche
") and Stephen Dorff (2010's "Somewhere
") share an intimate spark specific to brothers who have grown up together and know each other inside and out. Were it not for the actors' gaping 12-year age difference, they would be a faultless match for these roles. As the plot develops, however, a deadly hit-and-run accident the catalyst for the two of them skipping out on their directionless blue-collar lives in Reno, first-time directors Alan and Gabe Polsky (screenwriters of 2009's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans") can never quite focus on what it is they are trying to convey.
The narrative is all over the place and doesn't do anything particularly well, the brothers' present-day predicament undercut by scattershot flashbacks to their childhood, subplots involving a gambling addict (Joshua Leonard) and a car dealer (Kris Kristofferson), a romance between Frank and former flame Annie (Dakota Fanning), and self-indulgent hand-drawn animation sequences where Frank weaves wild tales to Jerry Lee about their alternate-reality pasts. There is too much here and, at 85 minutes in length, not enough time to cohesively explore any of it. "The Motel Life" has been adapted by Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue from an acclaimed novel by Willy Vlautin, and the only nuances remaining in the translation from page to screen can be attributed to the work of its fine, if underutilized, cast. They all deserve better.