Thursday, February 21, 2008

Flashback: The Hotel New Hampshire

The Hotel New Hampshire came out in 1984 - far later than I thought it had just prior to writing this - and stared young, hip actors: Rob Lowe, Jodie Foster, Nastassja Kinski, Joely Richardson, Matthew Modine, Amanda Plummer, a ten-year-old Seth Green, and psuedo-icons (well, that might be a stretch for some - yet they are/were talented actors) Wallace Shawn, Wilford Brimley, Anita Morris, and Beau Bridges as some sort of father figure. I remember this film being either (a) broadcast on cable a lot in 1985, or: (b) the trailer having been on a movie I'd watched a lot on VHS in 1985. I can't remember which, but since I didn't have cable in 1985, I'm betting (b).

(This all comes about, btw, because I just finished watching the 2007 Jodie Foster flick, The Brave One, and it sent me on an IMDB quest and... yeah. You get the idea.)

Anyway, my memories of The Hotel New Hampshire - if any of you even remember the movie - was that it was advertised as a comedy. Seriously. Check out the (wordy) tagline:

"If you experienced "The World According To Garp" and found it witty, delightful and totally unpredictable, then be happily surprised all over again when you join the fun and games that go on at the...Hotel New Hampshire"

Yep. Sounds like a comedy. Even looks like one; check out the trailer here.

So why do I remember this as being one of the most vile movies I've seen? Must have something to do with, well... here's a snippet from the 1 January 1984 Variety review that might give you an idea: "Among the unusual family members is Jodie Foster, who must endure a punishing gang rape and a prolonged fascination with the young man who did it..."

Aside from the fact that Jodie Foster seems to have made more than her share of movies in her career about being abused by men (The Brave One, Panic Room, Nell, The Silence of the Lambs, The Accused, Taxi Driver -among others in addition to THNH), my feelings about THNH are always ones of repulsion: here is a film that was marketed by (one might imagine) MBA's in their convertables speaking on cell-phones - but back when cell-phones weighed two pounds and had that curly pig-tail cord coming out the bottom and connecting to their cars.

Where in any description of "punishing gang rape" do the ideas of "witty" and "delightful" even exist? This is the kind of pop-culture caveat emptor that has led to the belief in many people that things like what occured at Abu Ghraib are, "kinda funny."


I haven't seen THNH since the first time in the mid-eighties. Perhaps I need to again; perhaps not. And I hope no one gets the idea that I think it's the reason people think that Inquisition-style torture is a-ok (stupid politicians are the reason for that). But damn...'d think someone might have questioned the whole concept that maybe this wasn't a laffs-a-minute comedy.

And yeah, I know it's based on the John Irving book, and I know Irving is an absurdist and realist (and deep down, aren't those the same things?), and I know that the filmmakers were trying (poorly, judging by reviews) to capture the spirit of the novel, and blah blah blah. I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is that I was expecting "vanilla with a marichino cherry", and once I'd licked away the surface, encountered "rotting pork and raw liver."

There's more here, I'm sure.


Boise Filmmakers. No Tourists.