28 Hotel Rooms

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28 Hotel Rooms
Written and Directed by Matt Ross
Oscilloscope Laboratories
Opens November 16, Village East Cinema

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In its stripped-down, episodic approach—the film consists entirely of two lovers' hotel-room liaisons, with each encounter announced via an intertitle giving the room number—28 Hotel Rooms aims for the sort of honest portrayal of romance the movies are often said to lack. The paradox is that writer-director Matt Ross has made a movie about two people (Marin Ireland and Chris Messina) truly getting to know each other without either character ever feeling genuinely fleshed out. In eliminating all the filler, it ends up feeling like nothing but. There's no context other than what they tell each other either in passing or in depth, and so the husband she's betraying and the books he's writing never much matter to us. Not showing us every aspect of their lives is a fine, even novel, approach, but merely telling us about them instead feels like a fruitless middle ground. There's certainly emotional layover among the many segments, but rarely enough for the whole affair to feel like more than a series of acting exercises. Although rarely disingenuous or affected, nearly every moment meant to carry weight feels either unearned or detached from the emotions it's meant to convey—since, well, it usually is. By its halfway point, 28 Hotel Rooms comes to feel like a short unwisely expanded to feature length; typical third-act plot points aside, there's little going on in rooms 10 through 28 that the first nine or so didn't already cover. Michael Nordine

 
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