Published Apr 01, 2006Crisis haunts an assortment of characters at the Niagara Hotel. Loretta, a local waitress, is torn between a stapler salesman and a small time con artist; recovering junkie Denise wants her baby back by whatever means necessary, while her ex-con husband wants to do it sensibly; Henry and Lily, new to Niagara Falls, are looking for work while slowly running out of money; and Phillie drinks to forget his long-dead wife, as Sophie deals with the ranting of the motel's owner, who happens to be her father.
Sound confusing? It's not. Niagara Motel, based on three of the six plays that make up George F. Walker's Suburban Motel series, expertly weaves these storylines together in what could have been a narrative mess; the credit goes largely to the writer's keen sense of pace and structure. The film works best when the actors are blissfully unaware of themselves. Wendy Crewson is perfect as Lily, the middle-class nag who considers prostitution a viable means of support, and Anna Friel brings truth to her detailed portrayal of Denise, the desperate addict who can't face her own demons. Craig Ferguson, however, can't seem to hit his pitch, wandering from scene to scene in a goofy daze that's supposed to pass for alcoholic depression, while Tom Barnett plays Dave (the stapler salesman) as an over-the-top caricature.
The film also suffers from a self-conscious reverie when the music condescends to tell us how to feel instead of providing subtext, but taking into consideration the solid performances from Caroline Dhavernas, Kevin Pollak, Kris Holden-Ried and Krista Bridges, Niagara Hotel is worth a short stay.