Tim Roth is at the heart of this quirky film, as Ted the Bellboy, working his first night at Hotel Mon Signor, on New Years Eve. However, the guests in four different rooms mean that his first night is eventful, exciting, scary and sexy.
The film is cut into four separate tales, a couple of which do interlock slightly – each segment has a different director and a different cast.
In the first tale, ‘The Missing Ingredient’, a coven of witches meet in the honeymoon suite, to resurrect their dead leader Diana. Ted is called upon to make a most unexpected contribution to the ceremony.
The second tale, ‘The Wrong Man’ Ted arrives at a hotel room having received a request for some ice. When he gets there, he finds a woman tied up and gagged, and her furious husband apparently convinced that she has had an affair with Ted. And that’s before things get even stranger.
The third segment, ‘The Misbehavers’ – and for me, the funniest – features a couple who go out for the evening and leave their children in their room, with instructions to Ted to keep an eye on them and make sure that they don’t misbehave. Predictably things go awry, to disturbing and hilarious effect.
Finally, there is ‘The Man from Hollywood’, where Ted is called to the Presidential Suite and meets a Hollywood producer named Chester Rush, and various members of his entourage. Rush and one of his friends, named Norman, have made a bet – if Norman wins, Rush will give him his car. If Norman loses the bet, he will also lose part of his anatomy (no, it’s not what you’re thinking).
This film was widely panned by both critics and audiences, and I do feel that it is a bit of a shame, because it actually has a lot to offer. It’s unfortunate that the first story is easily the weakest of the four. Featuring Madonna, Alicia Witt, Ione Skye and Sammi Davis, it perhaps asks the audience to suspend their disbelief a little too early into the movie – nonetheless, there were still moments which made me laugh out loud.
The second segment had a couple of genuinely hilarious moments, as the arguing couple, played by Jennifer Beals (who would later feature as the ex-wife of Roth’s character Cal Lightman, in tv show Lie To Me) and David Proval draw Ted into their own drama.
The Misbehavers was worth the proverbial ticket price alone. Banderas hams it up as the strict father, but the real kudos in this scene must go to Roth, as well as Lana McKissack and Danny Verduzco as the two children. There is one really surprising moment, and Ted’s reaction to it is so funny that when I think about it now, I still get the giggles.
Finally, The Man from Hollywood features Quentin Tarantino as the titular character, along with an uncredited Bruce Willis as one of his entourage. There is an homage to an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode (The Man from the South, although Chester Rush wrongly mentions a different episode) which in turn was based on a Roald Dahl short story. The ending of this managed to mix predictability and surprise to such a degree that it was disturbingly funny.
Roth shines throughout – but then again Tim Roth makes literally anything worth watching – and I adored his quirky mannerisms as Ted’s patience and credulity is stretched further and further. The supporting cast vary widely in terms of acting – neither Madonna nor Tarantino will ever be brilliant actors, but they work well enough here; Banderas by contrast is terrific.
Overall, I would say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable film – the disjointedness may put some people off, and certainly the various quirks will not be to everyone’s taste. It’s an interesting attempt at something a bit different, and for me anyway, it largely worked.
I think I’d be careful about who I recommended this too, but it’s a film that I personally will watch again.
Year of release: 1995
Directors: Allison Anders (The Missing Ingredient), Alexandre Rockwell (The Wrong Man), Robert Rodriguez (The Misbehavers), Quentin Tarantino (The Man from Hollywood)
Producers: Lawrence Bender, Quentin Tarantino, Alexandre Rockwell, Paul Hellerman, Scott Lambert, Heidi Vogel
Writers: Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Main cast: Tim Roth, Madonna, Ione Skye, Valeria Golino, Lili Taylor, Alicia Witt, Jennifer Beals, David Proval, Antonio Banderas, Lana McKissack, Danny Verduzco, Paul Calderon, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis,