Critic Reviews



Based on 19 critic reviews provided by
The directors and the cast, through a miracle of tone, mood, and emotion, have made a film that feels true, that is sweet and sharp and unbearable. Every frame feels right, every choice feels thought-out, considered. All adds up to a heartbreaking whole.
While it doesn't reinvent the wheel, or revolutionize the genre, it achieves its modest ambitions affectingly well, in no small part due to a clutch of cherishable performances, especially from leads Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff.
Powerful, moving and melancholy. A low-key treat.
Hirsch gives a finely tuned performance, almost absent of technique or self-consciousness, which dovetails nicely with Dorff's more expressive, method approach.
Unlike most pictures about people living on the fringe, The Motel Life is never drab or depressing.
Hirsch opens his heart to the role. And Dorff, matching the depth of feeling he showed in Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere," excels at digging deep into Jerry Lee's pain.
This well-crafted picture is a lovely work of true art, enhanced by terrific animated sequences illustrating Jerry Lee's love of drawing cartoons and Frank's ability to concoct tales of the brothers as heroic figures.
The New York Times
The story may be slight, but the performances and ambience resonate.
The false notes are outnumbered by those that ring achingly true.
The central performances by Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff hold the film together with the intensity of their brotherly affection and support.
What is successful, and suggests a promising future for the Polsky brothers as directors, is the film's central relationship, which never feels less than genuine.
The feature spikes its lonesome mood with shots of dry humor, animated sequences and flashbacks - at times overplaying its hand, even as Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff wordlessly convey all that needs to be said.
While this gritty indie is light on plot, the world of bars, casinos, hospitals and gallows humor is real and heartbreaking.
Wall Street Journal
It's admirable and even memorable, in its moody fashion, thanks to Roman Vasyanov's richly textured cinematography - he's a shooter to keep our eyes on - and three affecting performances.
Not surprisingly in this tale of desperate men, the only women are top-heavy cartoon characters - literally, animated sequences illustrate Frank's stories - or live-action betrayers, like Dakota Fanning's Annie, Frank's ex-girlfriend. I found the cartoons more interesting.
The Motel Life too often revisits the same emotions and sentiments, leaving us with a portrait that feels frustratingly simple.
As good as The Motel Life is for the actors, that's how bad it is for the viewer.

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