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‘The Motel Life’

by Giovanni Fazio

Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff play brothers Frank and Jerry Lee, who live on the margins in low-rent, dead-end Nevada carrying the weight of childhood trauma well into dysfunctional middle age. So far, so typically U.S.-indie. Their mother died when they were still kids, then Jerry Lee lost a leg in an accident. Frank blamed himself, and some two decades later, he’s a drunk, and Jerry Lee is a simpleton of some sort, seemingly still at a child’s emotional level — though maybe it was just the electro-shock therapy.

The Motel Life (Runaway Blues)
Rating
Director Alan Polsky, Gabe Polsky
Language English

When Jerry Lee comes home one night distraught, Frank learns that he has been involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident, and he immediately flees with his brother before the police can find him. To console Jerry Lee, Frank tells him stories, as he has since childhood, about pirates, fighter pilots and busty super-vixens. The filmmakers animate the stories in a hand-sketched style, which livens up the film, but can’t disguise the fact that two grown men telling each other bedtime stories smells more like a screenwriter’s conceit about “the power of storytelling” than anything else; we never sense the reality of these characters, despite noble attempts by Hirsch and Dorff.

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