The Motel (2005)
writer/director: Michael Kang
actors: Jeffrey Chyau, Sung Kang, Jade Wu, Samantha Futerman
I’m pretty late on this one as I only recently purchased this. It’s a low key indie film with sparse environments and dialogue but yet it manages to say more with less about the growing pains of first love and adolescence. The main character Ernest is a chubby 13-year-old with big glasses who cleans the rooms at the motel that his mom runs. His experiences are pretty much the whole focus of the film and the actor does a terrific job at portraying the awkward teenager. His character will act and do things that chances are we have ourselves done or thought of doing and would be too embarrassed to admit freely. While side-characters seem underdeveloped at first, they do feel like real people that I’m sure many people have known at some point in their lives, the bully, the first crush, the “cool” older brother type, etc. Sam (Sung Kang) is the “cool” older brother type who we see a bit more of out of all the side-characters, he is one of the patrons at the motel, who seems to come in with a different prostitute each evening. He takes Ernest under his wing so to speak and teaches him how to drive at one point which leads to the eventual climax where Ernest goes on a drive with his friend/crush. Sung Kang’s performance is good here, showing a cockiness that actually disguises a past pain.
Considering how slice of life type stories can easily become boring, this one retained my interest throughout its running time. Like life, the film can feel a bit disjointed with its series of unrelated, pedestrian life events but that actually worked for me. However, there was one event where Ernest is forced to kiss the bully’s sister by the bully himself which seemed quite nonsensical to me (but who knows, maybe there are bullies who do that, I sure never met one). This isn’t a spoiler though if you look at the DVD’s cover. There are some good chuckles here and there, usually lines delivered of the ironic type. The acting is good across the board and I think most viewers (except maybe ridiculously good looking people or people who were never bullied) will find characters they can relate to here. They’re not necessarily likeable at all times but that’s what makes them feel real. The little truths that come out of it remain universal.
It can be purchased online at amazon.ca and probably some other places.