Four Rooms (Tarantino et al., 1995)
[originally posted 16May2000]
Here’s an idea. Get four young, talented directors to do an anthology flick together. It’s gotta be a hit! Right?
They’ve been trying since at least the fifties, and it hasn’t worked yet. It doesn’t work here, either, though there are pieces of this film that shine with the kind of brilliance that makes these four directors as wonderful as they are, when you take them separately.
First, there is Allison Anders, and the only thing that needs said about her considerable directorial powers is Gas Food Lodging. And while I have a hard time criticizing any film that bares major portions of Ione Skye’s body, once again, we have hard evidence that any film project touched by the hand of Madonna turns to merde, no matter how good it is otherwise.
Second is Alexandre Rockwell, whose contribution to this film is by far the strongest. Odd that Rockwell is by far the most unknown of these directors, as well.
Next: Robert Rodriguez, fresh off the smash hit Desperado and about to hit it even bigger with From Dusk Till Dawn. And if you liked the twisted humor in those, you’ll like the twisted humor in this.
Tarantino closes the deal with a joke that could have been set up in a fourth—maybe a fifth—of the time it actually took. The gift for realistic dialogue that made Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction such joys is completely absent here, and only beautifully minimally-acted roles by veteran character actor Paul Calderon and “where is she now?” actress Jennifer Beals make this segment worth the trouble.
Holding this all together is Ted, the Bellhop at the hotel where all four of these stories take place. Ted is played by Tim Roth, who does what he does best—creeps the viewer out by playing a complete slimeball. In this case, however, Roth’s sliminess is kept below the surface, and you’re always left wondering why he seems like the engineer of these odd situations, even though in every case the directors go to pains to point out that he is, in fact, the innocent bystander of the bunch. Because of this, the “segment” that actually ends up being the best is the frame that holds the whole mess together, as Ted attempts to quit, phones his boss (Kathy Griffin) and ends up explaining the whole night to the stoned and monosyllabic Margaret (an unrecognizable and wonderful Marisa Tomei) before getting his boss on the phone and threatening to quit—the segue between the Rodriguez and Tarantino episodes.
So is it worth renting? Yeah. Not something I’ll end up getting a copy of on ebay, but certainly not the worst of the films that made it home this weekend. ** ½
Trailer with not completely accurate IMO, but very amusing, commentary.