A pair of working-class brothers flee their Reno Motel after getting involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident.A pair of working-class brothers flee their Reno Motel after getting involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident.A pair of working-class brothers flee their Reno Motel after getting involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident.
Several road movie conventions are present in the movie - the use of shots of deserted, often soulless highways; the impersonality of motel rooms with their identikit furniture and cramped living conditions; and the seedy roadside cafés where Frank spends much of his time having snatched conversations with passing acquaintances before buying food for his disabled brother. The two of them have never enjoyed a settled existence; like nomads they move from place to place, making the best of primitive living conditions.
What lifts this film above the run-of-the-mill is the emphasis on the brothers' creativity. Jerry-Lee has only one leg, the result of a childhood accident when he fell off a moving train. But this handicap does not prevent him from being a talented artist. His abilities relate directly to one of the film's major themes, realized through Mike Smith's brilliant animation. Frank is a storyteller, weaving fantasies of male heroism and female conquest every night to keep Jerry-Lee amused; these fantasies are portrayed on screen, suggesting that Jerry-Lee is using his god-given talent to create mental images in his imagination. Through this device we learn something of the brothers' potential; despite their humdrum lives, they have stories to tell that can engage our interest just as deeply as those higher up the social scale.
Alan and Gabriel Polsky's use of music is striking, not only evoking the mood of each scene but creating a wistful ambiance, making us realize how people often have little or no opportunity to make use of their talents. THE MOTEL LIFE may be a modest movie, but it is certainly compelling.
- Mar 15, 2016