Movie Review: Niagara Motel (2005)

I'm obligated by the terms of my passport to review at least one Canadian movie a year. This actually makes two.

Niagara Motel (2005)

Starring: Caroline Dhavernas, Kevin Pollak, Craig Ferguson, Anna Friel, Wendy Crewson, Peter Keleghan, Tom Barnett, Kristen Holden-Ried, Krista Bridges

Directed by: Gary Yates

I actually have four or five movies to review that are more significant and topical than this one, all of which would probably hold more interest for anyone who might read them. So why am I reviewing this little-known Canadian indie instead of, say, the biggest box office success of the year thus far or a 2006 Academy Award winner? Two reasons: one, I’m pretty sure I can keep this short, and two, to keep anyone reading this from making the same mistake I did and actually watch this movie.

Of course, most readers won’t have any access to this movie, given that it’s an obscure Canadian indie whose biggest star is either the host of The Late, Late Show, the smart alack stand-up comic from The Usual Suspects, or the chick from the quickly-cancelled (but awesome) Wonderfalls. But, it is available at Blockbuster in Canada in their Canadian festival section, and is making the rounds on Movie Central (which is how I caught it). Why did I decide to watch it? Well, the DVD cover for the Festival Collection copy often caught my eye (Anna Friel might not be traditionally-attractive, but she still managed to catch my eye), and I pretty much fell in love with Caroline Dhavernas from watching Wonderfalls on DVD, so I wanted to see her in something. That, and, you know, it was free.

Well… it was nice seeing Jaye again (Dhavernas will continue to be Jaye to me until she gets a new role, preferably on TV, where I think she’s better suited). Other than that, complete waste of time. Niagara Motel is one of those typical indies that is full of characters that are nothing more than an empty collection of quirks who deal with ridiculous situations that manage to be horribly mundane despite all the laborious quirks and ridiculous set-ups. Of course, the characters have little purpose, and no other connection to each other than the fact that they’re all staying in the same rundown motel near Canada’s tackiest tourist trap. There’s Loretta (Dhavernas), a pretty waitress for the motel’s restaurant who fends off the advances of stapler-salesman Dave (Tom Barnett) while considering the proposals of the slimy Michael (Kevin Pollak), who wants to hire her as an exotic dancer. There’s married couple Henry (Peter Keleghan) and Lily (Wendy Crewson), down on their luck and looking for work. There’s Denise (Anna Friel) and R.J. (Kristen Holden-Ried), ex-junkies trying to clean up to get their daughter back from foster care. There’s prostitute Sandy (Krista Bridges)… who’s a prostitute… and lives in the motel… and, that’s about it. All of them are staying in Phillie’s (Craig Ferguson) motel, who spends most of his time drunk, mourning for his wife who died on their honeymoon aboard the Maid of the Mist (which… I doubt has ever, or could ever, happen in the way presented).

None of these characters or their stories are at all entertaining. None of the performances are anything special. None of the scenes are filmed in any inspired fashion. In all, Niagara Motel is a dark comedy that isn’t at all funny or even all that dark. It has all the polish and substance of a typical film school offering, or at least the stereotype of a film school movie.

So here’s the main impetus for writing this review: my undying patriotism keeps telling me that I should watch more Canadian movies. But generally when I do, they kinda suck. Even the ones I kinda like, like Québec-Montréal, aren’t all that great. So, Canadian readers, give me a Canadian movie suggestion worth watching (and I mean really Canadian, as in funded by Canadian studios and/or telefilm, not a Hollywood production by a Canadian director). I’m sure we can do better, I just don’t think I have the patience to sit through more movies like this to find out.

0.5/5

So much for keeping this short.

Related Reviews:
Eulogy (2004)
Québec-Montréal (2002)
SherryBaby (2006)

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