Sunday, March 3, 2019

Thoughts on Hotel Room

"For a millennium, the space for the hotel room existed, undefined. Mankind captured it, and gave it shape and passed through. And sometimes in passing through, they found themselves brushing up against the secret names of truth." 

Episode 1 - Tricks 

It takes place in September 1969. Moe, played by Harry Dean Stanton, Darlene, played by Glenne Headly, and Lou, played by Freddie Jones share a perverse encounter at the Railroad Hotel. Darlene - a hooker, is taken to hotel room #603 with Moe for a hook up. However, the night takes an odd turn when an acquaintance of Moe's, named Lou, shows up and crashes their party. The two men seem to have a grudge against each other over Moe's dead wife, Felicia. Darlene gets stoned so Lou convinces her to perform a cheer from her high school days. Then Lou usurps Moe and ends up having sex with Darlene while Moe stews on the bed next to them. After, Lou gets Darlene to reveal that she tried to kill her boyfriend before becoming a prostitute. Then she mistakes Felicia for Lou's wife, which enrages Moe. The mood then changes quickly. The men give off the impression that they might get physical. Darlene manages to run from the room after the maid knocks on the door. Later, we see Lou put his wallet into Moe's jacket and leave. At the end, the police knock on the door. They question Moe for having Lou's wallet and then arrest him for the murder of his wife.

Lou might have been a figment of Moe's imagination. Or rather, Moe was the split and Lou was the real identity. Since this project was co-written with Barry Gifford, Lynch's partner in Lost Highway, I couldn't help but feel like this episode might have been a watered down variation of the Fred/Mystery Man character from Lost Highway. Both men seemed to have killed their wives. It seems they also may have been suffering from a split personality of sorts. Harry Dean Stanton was terrific, and combined with the Lynchian music throughout - courtesy of Angelo Badalamenti, in my opinion, Tricks was the strongest part of this mini-series.

Episode 2 - Getting Rid of Robert

This episode takes place in June 1992. Three beautiful women discuss men in a 90's time warp - a blonde named Sasha, played by Deborah Kara Unger, a brunette named Diane, played by Mariska Hargitay, and a redhead named Tina, played by Chelsea Field. Robert, played by Griffin Dunne, is Sasha's boyfriend, and the main topic of ladies' conversation. They drink wine, smoke cigarettes, and debate strategy about how Sasha can dump Robert for a new man. However, when Sasha names her new romantic interest, her friends inform her that he's married to someone else. Later, Robert shows up. It becomes evident that he has a past with Tina, and despite having shoulder pads that are bigger than he is, Robert manages to impress all the women. Once alone, he ends up breaking up with Sasha. She takes it badly and demands to know why he's ending things. Robert answers that it's because she's a, "bitch." Sasha reacts by bashing him in the head with a statue. At the end, despite the severity of Robert's wounds, he ultimately forgives Sasha and they decide to continue their relationship.

Arguably, Getting Rid of Robert is the weakest of the three episodes in Hotel Room. It was also the only episode that was not directed by David Lynch. It serves up a little humor in what is overall a bit painful to watch. Interestingly, the same maid from Tricks makes an appearance and it seems that she's never aged. The theme of the hotel staff appearing in every timeline, continues in Getting Rid of Robert and perhaps, if I'm not overthinking it a bit, hints that the hotel itself might be a type of purgatory.  

Episode 3 - Blackout

Blackout takes place in April 1936. Diane, played by Alicia Witt, and her husband, Danny, played by Crispin Glover, check into hotel room #603 during a citywide blackout - during which, Diane appears to be losing her grip on reality. Danny seems deeply devoted to her and is frightened that she's going mad. He brought her to New York to see a doctor named, Herschel Smith. They talk through their history together - offering tidbits of their struggles. It's revealed that their son drowned at the lake when they slipped away to make love. After, Diane learned she couldn't have any more children. At the end, Danny kisses her and all the city's lights come back on. The couple is engulfed in light and rejoice at the view from their window.

It's very intriguing when you revisit David Lynch's work, because he reuses many names, themes, motifs, as well as actors. Harry Dean Stanton, Freddy Jones, Crispin Glover, and Alicia Witt have all worked with David Lynch in The Elephant Man, DuneWild at Heart, Straight Story and Twin Peaks. Names like Diane, Tina, and Robert have also popped up sporadically throughout his work. The elevator in Hotel Room reminded me a lot of the one in Eraserhead, and fits in nicely with Dougie's elevator in Season 3 of Twin Peaks. Characters suffering from a type of dreamy duality, like Moe from Tricks, or the idea of the hotel room itself being a possible purgatory or alternate dimension, seems quite Lynchian as well. The ageless hotel staff offers deeper credence to the purgatory theory, in my opinion. Yet, even with all these fun Lynch trademarks Hotel Room lacks overall in style and mystery.

Hotel Room is reminiscence of a long ago era of made for television movies that were written with a melodramatic - soap opera-like formula. Outside of networks like Lifetime and Netflix, which offer current day variations, major networks stopped making television like that decades ago. Being that Hotel Room aired in the early days of HBO original movies, and HBO was marketed as being a bit bolder than the major networks at the time, Hotel Room was a creative choice in 1993. David Lynch brought a hint of his particular surreal - which definitely makes Hotel Room worthy of recognition.      

Check out these podcasts about Hotel Room, Twin Peaks Unwrapped - Hotel Room or Bickering Peaks - Hotel Room or watch on YouTube below!

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