The pacing in 28 Hotel Rooms can be exasperating at times as it slowly evolves with on and off moments during its course, just as relationships do.
28 Hotel Rooms
From first time filmmaker Matt Ross comes an indie romance drama that is both incredibly subtle and very captivating. 28 Hotel Rooms is a simple story about a relationship that starts off as a no-strings-attached ordeal but unsurprisingly develops into something much more complex. The film pays close attention to the small intimate details of relationships such as inside jokes and understated ways that couples often express affection. The pacing in 28 Hotel Rooms can be exasperating at times as it slowly evolves with on and off moments during its course, just as relationships do.
Two former acquaintances faintly recognize one another at a hotel bar where they met for the first time over a year ago. The film does not give much background information about either one of them; neither of their names are ever revealed. The man (Chris Messina) is a writer from New York who is on the road promoting his latest book. The woman (Marin Ireland) is a corporate analyst from Seattle who travels a great deal due to work conferences.
Only a few minutes pass until we see the two together in the first of many (28 as the title suggests) hotel room rendezvouses. Despite both of them being in other serious relationships, the two hook-up in one-night-stand fashion each time their travel schedules allow. Their sexual escapades slowly take less focus when their faux relationship does progress into something, although even they are unsure exactly what kind of relationship to call it. To complicate the story the “l” word is thrown around multiple times from the both of them; describing both the relationship they have together as well as their existing outside relationships.
There is a brilliant scene when the two are enjoying themselves on top of a hotel roof completely naked and clearly intoxicated, the man shouts down to bystanders below, “Life’s a fucking puzzle. Help me put it together”, in a half-joking but half-serious manner. The scene was surprisingly subtle despite how it sounds, but it is a very important scene. Neither one of them can figure out just how far this relationship can go, nor what to do with their existing ones. Considering the circumstances and the little emphasis the film puts on this swift scene, it is easy to take it lightly, but here is a man who is literally begging for anyone to guide him on what to do with this life.
A significant turning point in 28 Hotel Rooms is when the characters realize that they are lovers in hotel rooms only. They are confined and trapped as they are not able to risk being seen together outside the room. This imprisonment feeling continues to grow into a problem that they can no longer ignore. But it is also one that may be impossible to overcome, even if they try to tell themselves it is not.
At first, the lack of knowing anything about the characters may seem peculiar, but then you realize that it is done on purpose. Because they are living two different lives and they only know each other in the confines of the hotel rooms they share, there is little known about their outside life. The director wisely places the audience on the same level as the characters, we know nothing more than the characters themselves do.
For someone that we know so little about, Chris Messina’s character progresses more than one may assume. Marin Ireland’s character had an even more challenging task to showcase her character as she is much more reserved than Messina’s. Both of the lead characters superbly express wide ranges of emotions from laughter and sexual thrills to sad realizations and angry outbursts. And by the end, they start to divulge just enough about themselves to make the audience care about them.
28 Hotel Rooms is a simple film about complex situations that naturally form in relationships, but what makes the film so remarkable are the emotions that the director is able to capture on screen as well as evoke from the audience from such a simple setup. On one hand you will feel a lot of frustration and anger because of how they are hurting their other partners behind their backs. But on the other hand, you find yourself oddly rooting for the couple to somehow make it work. If nothing else, the film demonstrates that love works in mysterious ways.