28 Hotel Rooms: Sundance Film Review

28 Hotel Rooms


A mature, below-the-sheets look at love.

Chris Messina and Marin Ireland co-star in filmmaker Matt Ross' film about love.

PARK CITY – You expect to see subtitles when you view 28 Hotel Rooms: It's the kind of mature relationship film that the French can do so well. The narrative itself is the sort of thing where you hang out the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

Although it sounds facetious, this realistic romance might click with audiences more readily if dubbed into French and decked with subtitles. In short, it's what U.S. moviegoers would consider a foreign film.

Commercially, this incisive and tender look into the complexity of a relationship merits a select-site release (calling 608 Sundance Cinemas). More realistically, it could entice a cable distribution as an option for viewers who want their “Too Much for TV” option to include more than porn.

Starring Chris Messina and Marin Ireland as two professionals who hook up for a one-night stand while traveling for business, their triste evolves into something more than a mere dalliance.  That's a big surprise to both. And they're not quite sure what to do, but they both want to keep doing it.

In this perceptive “love” story, filmmaker Matt Ross spools out 28 one-night glimpses into their evolving relationship. It arcs from the romp of straight sex to the realization that they both like each other. Then, the personal story deepens with the dilemma that they are both in relationships. Ultimately, do they intend to be together outside the hotel room, and how long can they put off making that decision.

28 Hotel Rooms is enriched by filmmaker Ross' facility to go against the grain, beginning with the characters: She is a corporate accountant; he is a popular novelist. He is verbal; she is guarded. In essence, easy definitions and expectations are never true in this intriguing portrait of two individuals who in an organic relationship, which itself begins backwards: Sex first, no questions asked. Then friendship, then ... what?

Both lovers are attractive and admirable in their individual ways. As the witty and charming novelist, Messina is a perceptive and decent guy. Messina's shaded performance smartly reveals a dark side, which, or course, appears when he is most fearful of losing “whatever it is that we're doing.” Ireland's expressive eyes and tentative, glowing smile convey a warm beauty. Yet,like her lover, she hardens when confronted with the realization that she can't leave her husband. Ultimately and appropriately there is no pat ending or answer to this robust, delicate story.

Throughout, the technical crew's on-the-spot aesthetics are akin to prolonged foreplay:  cinematographer Doug Emmett's compositions and framings strip away any role-play facades, while editor Joseph Krings' apt cuts propel the ups-and-down of the relationship. Stimulating,all the way.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Next)
Production companies: Mott Street Pictures, OneZero, Silverwood Films in association with Sundial
Cast: Chris Messina, Marin Ireland
Director/screenwriter: Matt Ross
Producer: Lynette Howell, Louise Runge, Samantha Housman
Director of photography: Doug Emmett
Costume designer: Julia Caston
Music: Fall On Your Sword
Editor: Joseph Krings
No rating,  82 minutes