Budget conscious travelling

The Million Dollar Hotel is a wonderful title, full of delicious irony, as it merely the name of a run-down place that may have once been full of activity and prestige, but now is home to a number of long-term guests whose options do not include, shall we say, upward mobility.

We begin by having our narrator, Tom Tom, jump off the roof. Well, that's a good start - narration is so overused anyway - but as it turns out we then jump backwards to cover the events that lead to this. And, as it further turns out, it started with someone else going over the edge of the roof. These dual falls are an interesting framing device, though a hard one to live up to.

The dead man is Izzy Goldkiss, and his death does not cause so much a stir as the arrival of an FBI detective who is convinced Izzy was pushed, and pursues the investigation with an unusually fierce determination. Our unusual collection of residents (including someone who thinks he was a member of the Beatles) end up conspiring both to take advantage of Izzy's death by claiming he was an artist, whose works he left behind would now have real value, and also by trying to protect themselves from the investigation. These folks are neither too swift, nor altogether there, but their ideas have merit.

Meanwhile, Tom Tom gets involved with the aloof Eloise, and their relationship mirrors their mixture of innocence and disconnection from reality. None of the main characters really does have a firm grip on reality - even the detective.

This is largely an ensemble piece centered around Tom Tom, as played by Jeremy Davies - who you might remember as the less than brave soldier in Saving Private Ryan. Everyone fits in pretty well - Milla Jovovich as Eloise, Jimmy Smits as Geronimo, even surprisingly - Mel Gibson as our detective. Character is king in this piece, and we are able to see a full expression from quite a few of these people.

But The Million Dollar Hotel has to live on character because the plot trips over itself by not engaging us and also not truly justifying the eventual ending. In fact, "justifying" has two meanings here - one to get Tom Tom off the roof, the other to have this be an appropriate ending to the film. Neither is actually completely off, but somehow I felt the script moved backward from conclusion to cause, and there is a feeling of disconnect because of it. I can handle the subdued pace of the film, but by using the framing device it did, there is a sense of expectation instilled in the audience that is not reflected in the scenes we watch.

But if we strip out the beginning or somehow overlook where the film is overreaching itself, we have something pretty good. It's worth paying attention to what's going on. Jeremy Davies takes control of the frame in most every scene he is in, and is tremendous fun to watch.

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