Reel Asian: Checking out of THE MOTEL

While there are some brilliant touching moments from Reel Asian's Opening Night Film, THE MOTEL, it's still not enough for me to like it. But you might...

13 year-old Ernest (Jeffrey Chyau) can't seem to get a break. He secretly vies for the heart of a local waitress while cleaning rooms at the sleazy motel his mother owns and operates. He tolerates taunts, racial slurs and ritual humiliation on a daily basis from guests at the motel and his mother. When drunk and horny Sam (Sung Kang) sashes himself into the motel's lobby, they form a mismatched dependent relationship. Having no father figure in his life, Ernest latches onto Sam who takes it upon himself to teach him the ways to become a man. But exactly what does Sam know about becoming a man?

New York-based director Michael Kang's directorial debut is a fine feature. It shows his promise and potential as a film director. One of the problems is Sam's character. He was either overplayed by the hunky Sung Kang (no relation), or over the top written by Michael Kang. Sam lacked an overall genuine believability that was necessary to induce empathy ultimately needed in the end. Instead, he came off as a caricature.

The other problem is the over the head hit of growing up Asian in America. Maybe it's because I've seen it too many times as a film critic in the Asian community and I understand shit like this still happens today, but to have a specific conversation of the different stereotypes between being Korean and Chinese that ultimately has nothing to do with forwarding the story... welI... just let out a really heavy sigh and took a moment.

And don't even get me started on Ernest's dragon-lady of a mother.

In any case, the film won the Humanitas Prize at Sundance where it premiered early this year. The Humanitas Prize honors excellence in film and television writing focusing on stories that "probe the meaning of life, and enlighten the use of human freedom."

What made the film ultimately bearable is Jeffrey Chyau's portrayal of Ernest. Chubby and awkward, angry and confused, you really root for Ernest and wish he could just pull himself together and stand his ground. The chemistry he had opposite Christina, played by Samantha Futerman (who can be seen in the up coming movie Memoirs of a Geisha) was fantastic conveying the awkwardness of growing up and the tension one-way crushes can have on friendship.

So, this is my long-winded version of saying that it isn't a bad movie by any means. It's just a matter of taste and in my case; the sheets are below my minimum thread count to stay another night.

Wednesday, Nov 23 7:00PM @ Bloor Cinema
Tickets $15 (for screening and party)
Director in Attendance

reelasian05.jpg Watch the full festival line-up recorded at the press conference.

Click on the image to download the video. (It's a biggie) (35MB MOV)

For more information on the Reel Asian Film Festival please refer to their official website. www.reelasian.com.

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