The Hotel New Hampshire
Grade: D-
Year: 1984
Director: Tony Richardson
Writer: John Irving
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
By Scott Spicciati

“The Hotel New Hampshire” is a dreadfully long movie about a family as dysfunctional as any family can get. Adapted from John Irving’s novel, the film boasts the brains to be an intelligent drama with a touch of comedy, but the plot falls off the deep-end into tasteless, unjustifiable obscurity.

Mr. Win Berry (Beau Bridges) has never been a successful man but has always been an entrepreneur at heart. With his wife (Lisa Banes), he has a created a large family with many children, none of whom are the least bit normal. John (Rob Lowe) is the athletic football player, although he proves to be a coward and afraid of the school yard bullies. He has an uncomfortably good relationship with his sister, Frannie (Jodie Foster), and a decent one with his brother, Frank (Paul McCrane), a proud homosexual. The two younger siblings are Egg (Seth Greene), a boy who suffers from realistic nightmares, and Lilly (Jennifer Dundas), the youngest child who has stopped growing and is destined to be a dwarf.

Now you’d think a crazy story like this starring several famous faces would turn into something highly entertaining, but in-fact it is really highly boring. The movie tries to be funny, but fails miserably. There’s a point when an old school is being renovated to become a hotel, and the movie stops so we can see the phrase FEMALE SEMINARY get stripped down to MALE SEMIN during the deconstruction, and we are expected to laugh.

The school is turned into a hotel after Mr. Berry gets the idea of starting a family-run business. After cleaning out the old school for girls, the family moves in and lives out the father’s dream. After things don’t go so well, the family packs up and moves to Vienna, where they plan to re-open Hotel New Hampshire and continue doing what the really never started doing in the first place.

The movie has a lot of disturbing material in it, and none of it is saved by any type of payoff. We see at least three rapes, the rear ends of several horny men, a stuffed dog once a beloved pet giving grandpa a fatal heart attack, a brother and sister having sex for endless hours, a clown committing suicide, a whore giving a blow job, an elderly virgin asking for sex before she kills herself, a plane crashing into the ocean, a car bomb exploding, blindness via exploding glass, death by sickness and depression, sex between a woman and a woman in a bear suit, and bunch of other farce I could add to this list. It’s all done to the make the lives of the family more difficult, but no one in the family accomplishes anything from these events. Many of the family members die off which seems to have little effect on the Berrys.

The story continues to grow stranger (and worse) when a gang of radicals attempt to kidnap the Berrys simply because they are Americans running a business in a European country. But by this time, the family has befriended a group of locals which include fearless prostitutes and heroic blind men.

But even with all these events taking place, the film never goes anywhere. The goal is for the family to become successful, but we never see them striving to do anything because their lives are too preoccupied by the intense drama existing within themselves. I give credit to all the performances, but not even the combined talents of Rob Lowe and Jodie Foster will prevent you from checking your watch at least three times.

Only the bullies make targets out of the family, but not even their gang rapes inspire much revenge. Frank is gay, but everyone in the family already accepts that; no hurdles to climb here. John and Frannie have a sexual attraction to each other, but the parents don’t mind them making out and fooling around. A stuffed dog causes death and scares, but the family continues to haul it around.

Out of all the actors, I especially liked Jennifer Dundas and her character, Lilly. Oh, her story is still depressing like everyone else’s, but her story is also the only one that progresses and makes an advancement. It also comes far too late and near the end when by that time, anyone left still watching the movie is either asleep or focused on something other than this movie.

The only shred of decency about this film is how the family, despite everything thrown at them, manages to stay together and work things out, for better and for worse. At one point, Mr. Berry confesses to his son that he is a failure. But I say, no. The family is strong and he has a lot to do with keeping it together. No, the father isn’t the failure, the movie is.

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