Monday, 21 July 2014

The Motel Life

It’s Friday, one of the seven days for film watching, and tonight I watched a film called The Motel Life. A coming of middle-age story about that moment in every boy’s life when their one legged brother accidentally kills a child. As the film co-starring Kris Kristofferson and Stephen Dorff I like to imagine this film as a prequel to the film Blade, but there are too many continuity errors for that to make sense. It also stars Emile Hirsch and also Dakota Fanning in one of her crazy girl roles that she’s growing increasingly fond of.


Based on Will Vlautin’s novel of the same name, The Motel Life is a film concerning two brothers; Jerry-Lee (Dorff) and Frank Flannigan (Hirsch). The film alternates between the past and the present day (narrative wise, not like Back to the Future) with the past primarily focusing the impending death of Mother Flannigan and the non-subtly presented implications that the two boys must help each other get through life.

“Even if your brother loses a leg”
“Yes mom”
“Even if your brother kills a kid on a bike”
“Yes mom”
“Even if your brother becomes suspiciously rich by selling your fathers gun”
Yes mom”
“Even if your brother kills Morph in front of Tony Hart’s weeping eyes moments after he celebrates being better than Rolf, at art and non-molesting”
“Yes Mom”

The film continues with a small, broken montage of Frank telling Jerry-Lee some stories, Jerry-Lee losing his leg under a train and the gradual creation of Jerry-Lee’s artwork, which accompany the stories that Frank is telling. These drawings and animations play a part throughout the film and definitely help give it a unique feel. They are not used often enough though and they were delightful. I was left thinking that the film would have been better if it was almost entirely animated. But that would’ve destroyed the point of adapting the film from the book.

In the present day Frank accidentally kills a kid with his car and in his guilt he decides to kill himself. For some reason he decides to shoot himself in the amputated leg instead, winding up in hospital soon to be under scrutiny by the police. Despite the brothers appearing to be in the clear most of the time, Frank’s growing unpredictability leaves that a bit uncertain as the film progresses. Ultimately, despite the fact that one of the brothers accidentally murdered a child, it’s very sweet and a genuine depiction of brotherly love, and I found myself growing to like them both quite a lot by the end of the film.

Sub-plotting its way through the story is the relationship between Dakota Fanning and Frank, who’ve seemingly broke up in the past because of some horrible prostitute mother thing. The whole film is what country songs are made of, stories of normal people in shit situations and it’s very well executed. It might be a bit dry for some people’s tastes but for me it was a definite win.


It’s a dark film presented with innocence in much the same way as some of the best songs, the soundtrack of the film also deserves attention and it really is an original piece of cinema.

The Motel Life gets 3/5.

[★★★☆☆]

Dave Roberts


The Motel Life at CeX



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