Four Rooms

(USA - 1995)

by Vanes Naldi & Dan McGowan

Cast: Tim Roth, Valeria Golino, Madonna, Lili Taylor, Ione Skye, Alicia Witt, Jennifer Beals, David Proval, Antonio Banderas, Marisa Tomei, Lana McKissack, Danny Veruzco, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis
Genre: Comedy
Director: Allison Anders ("The Missing Ingredient), Alexandre Rockwell ("The Wrong Man"), Robert Rodriguez ("The Misbehavers"), Quentin Tarantino ("The Man From Hollywood) 
Screenplay: Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Cinematography: Rodrigo Garcia, Phil Parmet, Guillermo Navarro, Andrzej Sekula
Composer: Combustible Edison
Runtime: 86 minutes

Vanes' Review:
This is a difficult movie to rate because there are things to like, but almost everything else fails. Let's start with the things to like: Roth is just wonderful and not only represents the glue that holds the film together by virtue of the script, but also helps us survive the waste of the first two shorts. He's genuinely funny even only with looks, his reactions and facial expression (also his way of walking is quite...interesting).

The hidden gem of this movie, and the reason why it's worth watching it is the brilliantly hilarious "The Misbehavers", by Rodriguez. Not only is Banderas funny mocking himself and Latin machismo, but the real comedy comes from two newcomers, Lana McKizzack and Danny Veruzco. Directing a young kid and leading him effectively is not an easy task (see The Sixth Sense), but Rodriguez utilizes the kids' facial expression for the betterment of the segment. The whole episode is one of the funniest slapstick comedies of recent memory: genuinely funny, smart, creative and with very good acting, even from two newcomers.

Tarantino directs the last segment, and while it has its moments, generally it pretty much drags until the end. It lacks the style, look, and verve of Tarantino's other works. Quentin himself seems to lack his own verve in playing a lunatic big Hollywood star.

The problem with this movie is the two segments at the beginning. The first, "The Missing Ingredient" by Allison Anders, is a mindless waste of cast where nobody looks convincing other than Roth himself. Valeria Golino is ridiculously wasted in this role, and the whole coven looks more like a family reunion than witches trying to revive someone. It's more "Practical Magic" than "The Witches of Eastwick." The fact that the shortness of every segment basically kills any possibility for character development eventually makes this and the second a failure.

"The Wrong Man", starring Jennifer Beals and Sopranos' mainstay David Proval is more silly than funny, and it's not interesting, nor provocative. It's hard to give a chance to this movie after Roth is the only thing that could keep you interested during the first 50 minutes, but Rodriguez's short is delightful, funny and smart and Tarantino's work has its moments.

Overall, it's a disappointment given the cast, directors, etc, but this movie hides a secret gem and very funny moments. Now, if only they could give us 90 minutes of "The Misbehavers".

Dan's Review:
What can I say other than I saw this opening night with great anticipation, but by the end of the film I had wished someone hadn't greenlighted the damn thing. Back when it was released, I was a big fan of Rodriguez (because of El Mariachi) and an even bigger fan of Tarantino, whose Reservoir Dogs remains one of the best films of the '90's. The draw was a showpiece comedy with them and two other indy directors who were trying to make as big a breakthrough as well.

I must admit, I'm kind of a mark for movies that are split up like this that tie into a bigger picture. Cat's Eye (worth the price of admission just for the James Wood's stop smoking segment) and Creepshow come to mind on how fun these types of films can be. Inevitably there are parts that are disappointing in these types of films, but nothing prepared me for how disappointing everything was in Four Rooms with the _sole_ exception of Rodriguez's part. But on to the bad first, Alison Anders first part "The Missing Ingredient" remains one of the most pointless things I've seen in all of film. I just can't understand how in the editing room she didn't go "oh shit" when she watched this even once. I guess if you are hard up to see some mostly naked chicks (including Madonna) this could have a point, but considering it was directed by a female I can't give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to her just giving a meager story as an excuse to show us men some T and A.  It has something to do with a witches coven and them meeting at the hotel where they need some sperm as the 'missing ingredient' for some concoction. And...that's it. That's the whole story. Did you laugh at that scene description? Well, I hope you laughed for a good 25 minutes because that's how long it takes to tell that lame joke. If you laughed that long you may like Ander's part. If not, well, you should mark down Anders as a director never to see ever again like I did. Alexandre Rockwell's segment, "The Wrong Man" is only slightly better, but still extremely boring and leading almost nowhere.

Tarantino caps the film with his segment, "The Man From Hollywood" which is immensely disappointing. The scenario is taken (and even referred to) from an old Hitchcock episode that has to do with a bet and the possibility of someone getting their finger chopped off. Draped on that is filler of drunken people swearing. Bruce Willis is okay, but Tarantino showed why he should quit trying to be an actor and start directing some films again. It's okay to do a cameo in one of your films or play a funny bit part like he did in Reservoir Dogs but he was terrible here, offering nothing other than drunken ego and nastiness. Give me a pack of Guinness and I could do the same thing. The segment drags on and on. Mentioning the Hitchock episode was a huge mistake because you long for it like a man in the desert longs for cold water. There should be some tension but there is none when the moment of truth is about to occur. The only saving grace of this segment is Tim Roth as the bellboy (who almost, almost saved the Rockwell segment but his superhuman powers just weren't enough), whose reaction to the finger moment is pure comedy and acted so well.

The best segment is Rodriguez's "The Misbehavers," which is extremely funny not just because of the kids but also because of the parents and Tim Roth again. The dialogue between parents is witty, and Banderas is really good here as the father who you can tell would love to wring those kids necks but his devotion to his wife won't let him do it. He knows what Roth is in for, but he's going out with his wife on the town for some fun no matter what. The mayhem the kids wreak on the hotel is extremely funny as well as Roth's comic attempts to deal with it. These kids are a nightmare but still charming, and that's what keeps the material funny otherwise you would want to beat dad to it in wringing their necks. Great segment, but I would in no way ever watch the whole movie again just to see this. Either somebody only tapes me this segment, the price comes down to reflect a 20 minute movie, or its never going to get seen by me again. That is how bad the rest is. Tim Roth should be given a medal for somehow keeping me from walking out at many points.

RATING (single short):

The Missing Ingredient - NO STARS
The Wrong Man - 1/2*
The Misbehavers - ***1/2
The Man from Hollywood - * (and that was earned solely by Tim Roth)

"THE WRONG MAN" - *1/2

RATING (Overall Average): 



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