Four Rooms (1995)

Four Rooms is an anthology film consisting of four stories each directed by, and primarily starring, different people. They all take place in the same hotel, on New Year’s Eve, and each one features Tim Roth as the hotel’s bellhop and seemingly only employee. He ends up heading to each room to discover what’s going on inside. As such, it makes a lot more sense to look at them individually, and then how they come together as a whole. Here’s a spoiler for that last part: not terribly well.

Taking place in the Honeymoon Suite, “The Missing Ingredient,” from Allison Anders, involves a coven of witches attempting to resurrect a woman who was turned to stone 40 years ago. The most “known” star here is Madonna, giving us no reason to believe she should be in movies. This story is devoid of all drama and humor, and features awful dialogue and poor acting. It doesn’t work as a standalone story, and serves as a very poor introduction and hook to our film. It makes you think that, quite possibly, the rest of the stories will be this bad. It might make you want to turn off the film before you really even start.

In room 404, we have “The Wrong Man,” by Alexandre Rockwell, which involves a hostage situation about a man, Siegfried (David Proval), and his wife, Angela (Jennifer Beals). There is some light tension here, and some funny moments, easily rising it above the previous story. It’s a bit confusing, and it’s absolutely ridiculous, but I did kind of enjoy it. The two non-Tim Roth actors were competent, and some of the plot was engaging.

Next, we have “The Misbehavers,” inside room 309 and directed by Robert Rodriguez. A husband and wife (Antonio Banderas and Tamlyn Tomita) are going out partying. They hire Roth’s bellhop to watch their two mischievous children for the night, make sure they get to sleep on time, and so on. The two kids, obviously, will have to cause trouble, although it’s to be seen exactly whether or not they’re more of a problem than the bellhop. It’s the funniest and most accessible of the stories, and it made me want to see what Rodriguez would do if given a full 90 minutes for an R-rated comedy.

Finally, we get to quite possibly the reason you have even heard of Four Rooms. Quentin Tarantino directs and stars in the final installment, “The Man from Hollywood.” Here, he plays a big-shot Hollywood director who, along with his drunk friends, wants to recreate the plot of one of the episodes of Alfred Hitchcock’s television series, in which a bet is made: One character needs to try to light his lighter ten consecutive times. If successful, he gets the director’s car. If not, he gets his pinkie finger chopped off.

This last installment is the one where Tarantino shows off. There are two exceptionally long takes, one of which, I swear, comes close to ten minutes in length. The problem with this is that Tarantino is not an actor, and without the magic of editing, you can really see he’s not very good in front of the camera. Jennfier Beals (in the same role as in the second story), Paul Calderón, and an uncredited Bruce Willis co-star in this story.

I liked three quarters of Four Rooms. The first story probably should have been buried as the second story, so that the film doesn’t get off to a poor start, and I would have shifted the order around even more, starting with “The Man from Hollywood” and ending with “The Misbehavers,” but that’s just me. End and start with the strongest stories, you know? Each of the final three stories contains enough interesting elements to make them easily watchable, and they’ve all got differing levels of entertainment, too.

Tim Roth is a good actor, but he’s actually one of the problems with Four Rooms. Being directed by four very different people leads to him being inconsistent and often looking confused. But, mostly, he plays a bumbling fool who will do anything for a quick buck. It comes across as awkward, and like it was all being ad-libbed, which wasn’t a problem for anyone else — at least, anyone not in “The Man from Hollywood,” most of which easily could have been made up on the spot.

Four Rooms is more interesting than it is anything else. You’re intrigued by it, and it’s the type of experiment that’s worth seeing just to say you have. Some of the characters and performances are fun, or just so bad that you pretty much have to see them, and just the sheer fact that these four directors have collaborated makes this a must-watch for some people. There are some moments in between each room, too, the longest of which contains a humorous conversation between Roth, Marisa Tomei and Kathy Griffin.

If you’re a fan of just one of these directors, this is a film you have to see, just so you can have the pleasure — or possibly disgust — of saying you did. I found the final three stories easily watchable, and the last two really quite fun. The first one gets Four Rooms off to a terrible start, however, and that will ruin it for some people. It was compelling and interesting, and that was enough for me. I’m not even sure if it’s really all that good, but it was kind of fun and really intriguing, and I recommend it for those reasons alone.

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