Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff play solemn brothers, quite convincingly, in The Motel Life, a solid adaptation of the critically praised novel by Willy Vlautin. Fans of the novel might notice some distinct changes, but the “sometimes bad luck hits you” and brotherly companionship themes of the book remain strongly intact. Frank Lee (Hirsch) is sleeping off his latest drunk in a seedy Reno hotel room when half-naked brother Jerry (Dorff) enters the room shivering and bawling. On a cold winter’s night, Jerry has accidentally run over and killed a boy on his bicycle, and he’s begging to get out of town. Frank hears the story, vomits, and then agrees to take a drive. A string of bad decisions and actions follows, and a lesser-made film might’ve been too dark and depressing to take. Thankfully, directing brothers Alan and Gabe Polsky combine beautifully shot images with stellar performances to keep things rolling in a way that keeps us rooting for the brothers. Dorff has never been better, and Hirsch is his equal. The Motel Life walks that fine line of being dark without being unrelentingly depressing. There’s a certain joy in seeing two actors performing together so perfectly, something that gives this movie a feeling of triumph amid the intentionally conveyed despair.
Director: Alan Polsky and Gabe Polsky
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning, Kris Kristofferson, Shae D'Lyn, Joshua Leonard, Oren Skoog and Jenica Bergere