The Motel (2005)

DVD Cover (Palm Pictures)
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Overall Rating 66%
Overall Rating
Ranked #6,873
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Thirteen-year-old Ernest Chin lives and works at a sleazy hourly-rate motel on a strip of desolate suburban bi-way. Misunderstood by his family and blindly careening into puberty, Ernest befriends Sam Kim, a self-destructive yet charismatic Korean man who has checked in. Sam teaches the fatherless boy all the rites of manhood. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: December 16, 2006
There's nothing quite like hitting puberty, is there? It's that magical time of a young man's life when he finds out that "angry sleeping" doesn't actually exist, that porno magazines hold more value than just a good laugh at the grossness found within, and of course, let's not forget that first crush.

Thirteen-year-old Ernest (Jeffrey Chyau) gets to discover all of these experiences for the first time, but the difference between him and most young boys is the fact that he lives in a motel with his mother, grandfather, and two sisters. His mother is overbearing and discourages him from writing (his true love), instead emphasizing that he should spend his time keeping the motel clean and working the front counter. He also happens to be Chinese, a fact that certainly doesn't elude some of the customers who have no qualms about being subtly (and blatantly) racist.

One day, a drunken man with a blonde prostitute in tow requests a room, hands Ernest a credit card, and takes off. The card is declined, and as Ernest attempts to get a different form of payment out of this man, a strong and almost father-son relationship builds between them. He identifies himself as Sam (Sung Kang), and although he never mentions why it is that he spends his time getting drunk in an hourly-rate motel, he starts to spend more and more time with our young star. The two play ball together, Sam teaches him how to drive, and he also encourages our lovestruck young man to finally step up to the plate and confess his feelings to Christine (Samantha Futerman), his secret crush.

I realize that the plot doesn't sound extremely exciting, but that is because this movie plays out almost like an episode of Seinfeld in that things do happen and the story does go somewhere, but it's basically a story about nothing. That's not necessarily a bad thing - after all, Seinfeld was one of the most popular television shows ever - but to describe the plot would require that I basically spell out a couple of the scenes in their entirety. Now, in saying this, I'm not saying that there is no storyline whatsoever: far from it, all of the pieces of the plot are there to show us the joys of growing up and they do lead up to a grand finale, but the vast majority of the scenes have no relevance on their own. Characters and bits of the story come and go without so much as a second thought to continuing with them, and there are times when the home viewer truly gets a feel for what it's like living in a motel and never really knowing who or what the next day will bring.

One of the strong points of this movie is the realistic portrayal of what it's like to hit those formative teen years. Other movies that deal with this have some sort of agenda in mind when casting the characters: they either want to make you laugh if it's a comedy or cry if it's more drama-oriented, but here, there is no true agenda other than reminding us what those years were like. It's actually almost a little too realistic in spots - while I certainly can't claim that I was a good little boy around that age, it was definitely a bit uncomfortable to watch an actor (who couldn't have been much older than the thirteen-year-old that he portrayed) discussing how he'd like to stick his "hard cock between her legs", or a slightly-older girl discussing "hot and wet pussies" while looking at a porno magazine. I have to respect the director for having the courage to show this sort of stuff especially considering society's current "think of the children!" mentality, and the result of said courage is one of those rare movies that truly feels realistic. This is only helped by the fact that the relatively-unknown cast members turned in some damned good performances.

It's certainly not the type of movie that I would have expected to enjoy, but I was pleasantly surprised and left wanting more when the credits rolled. There are a number of hilarious and touching moments to be found here, and the overall package definitely gets my recommendation. 8/10.
Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg #1: Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg - added 05/26/2007, 01:34 AM
Yeah, for a coming-of-age film, it was really nice to see that this wasn't afraid to walk out of bounds. A truly touching and delightful watch; I wish it would have gone on longer.
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