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Movie Review: Chelsea Walls

All About Ethan Hawke:

Last week, as you know, I bumped into Ethan Hawke in the lobby of the Angelika Cinema...and we had a few totally insignificant words about the weather. On Sunday night, I watched his interview on Inside the Actors Studio on the Bravo network, hosted by the very annoying, James Lipton. I had never been a big Ethan Hawke fan, but I was willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt since I now felt I knew him and his very blue eyes. It turns out that he is bright, interesting, self-effacing and generally a good guest. So, I wanted to give his directorial debut a chance and went to see Chelsea Walls.

Story: The unfortunate part of this review is that there was no story. The Chelsea Hotel itself is the story. So, if you are not local I will tell you that this Hotel was built in 1884 and has a most colorful history. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is only three blocks from my apartment on West 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The following website will tell you all you need to know about some of its wonderful, infamous guests including Dylan Thomas, Sid Vicious and Mark Twain. Go to: http://www.hotelchelsea.com/. The Hotel has also been the subject of two other films - Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls and Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy.

Director Ethan Hawke seems to work well with actors. He allows then to be loose (probably not always a good idea) and a bit self-indulgent. The story and script is from a play by Nicole Burdette. Essentially it is about multiple residents of the Hotel, their trials and tribulations over being 'artistes'. The poets, painters, composers and writers in this story are either drugged, drunk, nuts, depressed, in desperate need of a good shower and food and most definitely need to get out into the light of day. Most of the film takes place at night or in rooms where the curtains are drawn. I am aware that digital filming in the dark takes on a mood of its own but also results in the audience tending to doze off...I know I almost did a few times. But all in all, it was an interesting first effort and I will be watching Hawke's future projects.

Acting: Uma Thurman (Hawke's real life wife) is not a very good actress. I have been pretty unimpressed with her filmography thus far. Kris Kristofferson plays the same boozy drunk he has played before. Robert Sean Leonard was interesting and I think needs a good break to put him in the big time.

Critters: Alas, none.

Food: Just lots and lots of booze and cigarettes.

Visual Art: Lots of Chelsea Hotel art. Some good, some awful.

Blatant Product Placement: The Chelsea Hotel (although I doubt that they need anymore publicity).

Soundtrack: A nice overlapping soundtrack by Jeff Tweedy.

Opening Titles: Unimpressive

Theater Audience: About 20 locals - a few looked liked residents of the hotel for sure. Several were snoring loudly during the film.

Predictability Level: There was no story...so there was nothing to think about.

Tissue Usage: Allergy season is on in NYC...so tissues are always a must.

Oscar Worthy: No (although what do I know about this category).

Nit Picking: Too much self-indulgence by dear Ethan...not enough plot.

Big Screen or Rental: Since the theme of this review is All about Ethan Hawke, here is his filmography (with LOBO comments - of course).Training Day (hated the movie) Waking Life (did not see it) Tape (did not see it - but wanted to) Hamlet (loved it) Snow Falling On Cedars (bad, but visually beautiful) Joe the King (did not see it) Great Expectations (awful) Newton Boys (did not see it) Gattaca (liked it) Before Sunrise (did not see it)Search And Destroy (did not see it) Reality Bites (good) Floundering (did not see it) White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf (did not see it) Quiz Show (good) Rich in Love (don't remember whether I saw it or not) Alive (absolutely love this film and watch it whenever it is on) A Midnight Clear (loved it) Waterland (good) Mystery Date (did not see it) White Fang (did not see it) Dead Poets Society (loved it) Dad (1989) Explorers (did not see it)

Length: A bit under 2 hours