The Niagara Motel and the attached Riverside Grill, located in Niagara Falls, are owned and operated by Serbian father and daughter, the always angry Boris and hard working Sophie. Through ... See full summary »
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Kieron J. Walsh
The Niagara Motel and the attached Riverside Grill, located in Niagara Falls, are owned and operated by Serbian father and daughter, the always angry Boris and hard working Sophie. Through the motel and/or restaurant comes a series of disparate but equally struggling people: middle aged couple Henry and Lil, formerly middle class but who are trying to cope with the loss of employment and its associated money; young couple R.J. and Denise, who are trying to clean up (with varying degrees of success) so that they can reclaim their daughter from foster care; and the restaurant's new waitress, young widowed French-Canadian Lori, who is escaping a complicated situation in her hometown and who is preyed upon by two locals, straight-laced Dave and less than straight-laced Michael. The person who sees everything that is going on is the motel's caretaker Phillie, a Scot who stayed in Niagara Falls following a personal tragedy. To escape memory of that tragedy, Phillie is in a constant state of... Written by
The interior motel scenes were filmed at the Dutch Connection Inn in Steinbach, Manitoba. According to Production Designer Deanne Rohde, the motel was "way too nice", so they had to make significant renovations to make it look run down, as well as build extra rooms. The real motel has since closed and the building converted to a strip mall. See more »
"Niagara Motel" is a hard film to categorize. Its tone fluctuates wildly. Most of the characters have serious problems that for the most part are played straight and seriously but there are some scenes that suddenly turn to flaming black comedy. If you need characters to care about in a movie, they are a bit in short supply here, but there are exceptions. Caroline Dhavernas, in the role of an apparently squeaky clean waitress who is, surprisingly, considering joining the "adult entertainment" industry, is a joy to watch whenever she is on screen. British Actress Anna Friel brings some much needed feistiness to her role as a recovering young drug addict trying to get her child back from a bureaucratic Children's Aide social worker. And Wendy Crewson brings flashes of warmth when her character discovers the hooker next door is both more interesting and nicer than she had imagined.
I saw the movie on DVD. Be sure to watch the audio-commentary version and the other various features of the actors and director talking about the various characters after you've watched the main feature (only 88 minutes long). Clearly all the actors really loved their characters. I felt much better about the movie after I learned how the actual scenes developed in process.
Amusingly, the city of Niagara Falls (Canada) thought that the movie focused so much on the seediest aspects of the city that they refused to cooperate in its filming. So, the few outdoor scenes that were actually shot in Niagara Falls were shot surreptitiously from the back of a van.
Worth watching on DVD with all the extra features. "
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