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‘Four Rooms’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 25, 1995

 


Director:
Quentin Tarantino;
Robert Rodriguez;
Allison Anders;
Alexandre Rockwell
Cast:
Tim Roth;
Bruce Willis;
Madonna;
Jennifer Beals;
Valeria Golina;
Antonio Banderas;
Quentin Taratino;
Marisa Tomei
R
extremely foul language, adult situations, nudity and violence


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Not everything that arrives on Christmas Day is a gift. Take, for example, "Four Rooms," the brightly wrapped lump of coal from Miramax Films and "Pulp Fiction" producer Lawrence Bender.

This anthology film is made up of four short episodes written and directed by indie superstars Allison Anders, Robert Rodriguez, Alexandre Rockwell and Quentin Tarantino. Curiously billed a comedy, "Four Rooms" asserts itself as a goof so laboriously and aggressively that you almost feel pinned back in your seat.

Actually, physical restraint would be the only reason why the average moviegoer wouldn't walk out on this stupefying attempt to create a kind of art-house Jerry Lewis movie. Figuring, perhaps, that Jim Carrey's films lack a sense of '90s pop-culture hipness, the four have collaborated on this story—about a single New Year's Eve at Los Angeles's Mon Signor hotel—that takes the cake for self-congratulatory self-indulgence.

Because it would be tedious to expound upon the awfulness of each episode individually, suffice it to say that the focal point of the film—which was reportedly reworked after its poor reception at Cannes—is Ted (Tim Roth), a bellhop on his first day. Playing the part as if he were wired on Mexican jumping beans, Roth twitches and stammers into four different rooms during the film. And behind each door lies a different (and wackier) story.

We're treated to some unfunny weirdness: There's Madonna in black rubber in Anders's "The Missing Ingredient" (the first of the quartet), along with a mostly bare-breasted Ione Skye and Sammi Davis. There are also boozing, foul-mouthed, cigarette-smoking tykes plus Marisa Tomei as a crack head in Rodriguez's "The Misbehavers," which ultimately builds to a provocative climax (involving the discovery of a multilated hooker), but takes forever to get there.

The filmmakers show at least some shrewdness in their marketing by placing Tarantino's episode, "The Man From Hollywood," last, but the wait isn't worth it. Based loosely on an old episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" that starred Peter Lorre and Steve McQueen, the tale features Tarantino as big-deal comedy star Chester Rush. Along with his cronies (Bruce Willis, Jennifer Beals, Paul Calderon), Rush gets drunk on champagne to celebrate his latest blockbuster.

As the evening degenerates, a bet is made, and Ted is offered a handsome fee to oversee the potentially bloody proceedings. Designed to be shocking and off-the-wall, the episode couldn't be more leaden. Roth is irritatingly manic as Ted; grimacing and screeching, he looks and sounds more like Jimmy Durante than Jerry Lewis. But his performance, at least, displays some skill and technique. Tarantino is a different matter altogether, giving such an amateurish performance that you're almost embarrassed for him. One of the more disturbing repercussions of the success of "Pulp Fiction" is the unleashing of Tarantino, the actor. Perhaps this experience will persuade him to stick behind the camera, where, despite this trifling fiasco, he remains the most exciting discovery of the '90s.

Four Rooms is rated R for extremely foul language, adult situations, nudity and violence.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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