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MILLION DOLLAR HOTEL

Izzy (short for Israel) Goldkiss is dead. Having fallen (?) from the roof of the seedy Million Dollar Hotel in Los Angeles, his media baron father (Richard Edson) is convinced Izzy was murdered. He calls on FBI special agent Skinner (Mel Gibson) to investigate. In the hotel, Skinner finds a collection of misfits and outcasts who’ve been failed by the mental health system. They include Geronimo (Jimmy Smits), Dixie (Peter Stormare) who believes he’s the fifth Beatle, Vivian (Amanda Plummer), and Tom-Tom (Jeremy Davies) who was Izzy’s best friend. But Tom-Tom’s main aim is not to help Skinner out, but to meet the beautiful Eloise (Milla Jovovich).

"Anyone with the natural filmmaking talent of Wim Wenders deserves to be taken seriously, even when they are straining their talents beyond the limit. In The Million Dollar Hotel, Wenders has a script (by Nicholas Klein) that is incredibly challenging to pull off successfully. It has defied Wenders’ effort, although there are some terrific cinematic achievements buried within the film. Whether the self mocking tone is evident in the script or not, it should have been avoided, since it collides with the setting in which the characters are all unhinged in some way. The two elements cancel each other out, leaving us with often boring passages. The studied craziness permeates the film and turns on Wenders’ intentions: there is none of the ethereal quality so desperately needed to make this film move us or prod us into some reaction. Instead, we shrug our shoulders in an act of disconnection. Numerous little misjudgements add up to one big one. For instance, Mel Gibson’s character, Skinner, has the potential to be a strong metaphorical figure (once a physical freak now wielding power over other, mental freaks): but the portrayal is one dimensional and incomplete to be really effective. Some of the irritants are evidence of lack of discipline. The extended scenes of Jeremy Davies acting the ‘stupid’ of his character, for instance, are wearying and become self indulgent for both actor and director. Also overdone are some overtly ‘clever’ image making, like a trumpet-playing resident in a candle lit window scene. (To make it worse, the trumpet playing is too good to belong in this fleapit.) But gripes aside, the film creates a sense of place and time superbly, and the cast perform death defyingly for Wenders, in pursuit of his vision. And it does have some novelty value."
Andrew L. Urban

"Wim Wenders' musical inclinations take a different turning in this collaboration with Bono, whose music is as complex as the characters that inhabit the Million Dollar Hotel. This is a murder mystery with a difference – everyone is eccentric, simple and positively weird. But we never laugh at the characters, we inhabit their world and get a glimpse of a poignant, tragic place where life is like an emotional earthquake. Wenders has embraced an extraordinary topic and fleshed it out both cinematically and viscerally, enticing us into this contradictory home of madness. The script has fleshed out wonderful bizarre characters; each is fascinating in its own way. Detective Skinner is obsessive, unorthodox and manic; Eloise is an angelic whore; Tom Tom is sweet, stupid and so sensitive; Dixie, the whimpering rejected Beatle is stuck in a time warp; Geronimo is larger than life….. The assembled cast is nothing short of extraordinary. Jeremy Davies is riveting as Tom Tom, a Simple Simon whose hair is like a scrubbing brush that has just worked over a kitchen full of pots and pans. He creates a character so complex, so tragic, so believable, that we feel every hurt for him. His whingeing eventually becomes rather monotonous, but perhaps that's the point – we get driven to the edge, like the characters. Everyone is terrific and Gibson is well cast here, but wait until you see Gloria Stuart! From Titanic's regal dame, she has become a lovable old street-wise biddy with a rough spiked tongue spiked! There are plenty of witty throwaway lines, and we dip in and out of tragedy and humour simultaneously with skill and subtlety. Yes, it feels a little long, and is self indulgent in parts, but the overall imposing mood remains with us, the dark production design invading our comfort zone, leaving us unsettled. As the tensions escalate, so too does the soundtrack, a fluctuating and fervent musical journey from U2. You may never want to check in, but you will never forget the people you meet. Gripping and intriguing, Million Dollar Hotel is an edgy mood film that haunts, disturbs and entertains. "
Louise Keller

"After Buena Vista Social Club, Wim Wenders returns to feature filmmaking with The Million Dollar Hotel. He also returns to the Los Angeles he used so effectively in The End of Violence. This film examines the nature of celebrity in an age where television can make someone famous (or infamous) in the twinkling of an eye. It also looks at issues of friendship and loyalty. Unfortunately, these themes are caught up in a rather muddled narrative; which buries them under an avalanche of bizarre characters and plot lines that lead nowhere. By populating the eponymous hotel with outlandish residents, key elements of the story founder on the very eccentricities that make the characters interesting. In the end, the murder mystery lacks the intrigue necessary to sustain it. Despite the plot problems, the film does have a lot going for it - fine performances, marvellous cinematography, a great soundtrack, an incredibly sexy "non-sex" scene, and one of the most spectacular opening sequences of the year. Jeremy Davies and Milla Jovovich in the central roles bring an offbeat energy to their onscreen relationship. Jovovich is particularly touching in the second half of the film as the romance blossoms. Mel Gibson turns in a strong performance as Skinner, a man who’s strong on the outside but broken inside. Amanda Plummer, Jimmy Smits and especially Peter Stormare lend solid support; with Stormare getting some of the film’s best lines. The Million Dollar Hotel promises much and does deliver to an extent. However, its shortcomings mean it never becomes more than the sum of its, at times disparate, parts. "
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 3

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SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

TRAILER

MILLION DOLLAR HOTEL (MA)
(US)

CAST: Jeremy Davies, Mel Gibson, Milla Jovovich, Jimmy Smits, Peter Stormare, Amanda Plummer, Gloria Stuart, Tom Bower, Bono, Tim Roth, Julian Sands, Richard Edson

DIRECTOR: Wim Wenders

PRODUCER: Bono, Bruce Davey, Nicholas Klein, Deepak Nayar, Wim Wenders

SCRIPT: Bono, Nicholas Klein, Wim Wenders

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phedon Papamichael

EDITOR: Tatiana S. Riegel

MUSIC: Bono, Brian Eno, John Hassel, Daniel Lanois, Hal Willner

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robbie Freed

RUNNING TIME: 120 min

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: November 30, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Ent

VIDEO RELEASE: May 16, 2001







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