28 hotel rooms

Matt Ross’s first feature film, 28 Hotel Rooms was screened at the Sundance Festival in 2012. It is an impressive first venture starring Chris Messina and Marin Ireland that ventures into their clandestine affair over what seems like a decade, give or take a couple of years. Throughout, the protagonists remain nameless and play along the changing faces of their relationship. Based in New York, the movie shifts from one hotel room to the other focusing on maintaining dark and dull visual appeal throughout.

Messina plays a writer based in New York. Whilst on a book tour owing to the success of his first novel, he meets Ireland. She is a corporate number cruncher who is based out of the West Coast. A couple of expected flirtatious dialogues later, they end up making love. Assuring Messina that she won’t be calling him ever again, the story of the first room ends. But like the screenplay would have turned out, they do meet up again and yet again in one room or the other. As the story progresses,

Messina is shown to be the more extroverted of the two. He is curious and wants to know more about the secretive Ireland. But usually, she just maintains that mysterious smile and says nothing. Her coy yet confident demeanour is in stark contrast to the good-looking, disheveled and talkative Messina. The director builds on her character as the movie progresses and we get to know more about the other facets of her character and life. The fact that the director didn’t really cast superstars in this non-descriptive roles works in his favour and what we have from both the actors is something worthwhile.

The movie, however, fails to depict the growing emotional connect between the two, if any. It is more about their bonding-over-sex than anything else. The director throws in some complicacies like Ireland being married and having a baby and Messina having a girlfriend-turned-wife character to give the plot the much-required flow.

28 Hotel Rooms is a story of two people whose lives get convoluted as times pass. As beautiful a subject as it may sound, what the movie seems to clearly lack is a definitive plot with presence of external characters, only in casual mentions. Nevertheless, it is a bold attempt at erotica by the director and may just strike a chord with the contemporary audience.