Four Rooms

Four Rooms

1995, R, 115 min. Directed by Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino. Starring Tim Roth, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Beals, Paul Calderon, Sammi Davis, Valeria Golino, Madonna, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Alicia Witt, Quentin Tarantino.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 5, 1996

What must have seemed like a positively brilliant idea at the time -- a quartet of short films by four of American cinema's most promising young directors -- fails to live up to its promise and, instead, results in a wildly uneven, temperamental, and ultimately disappointing mish-mash of cameos, in-jokes, and stories that fail to engage. It's New Year's Eve, and perennial Tarantino favorite Roth is the new bellhop at the Hotel Mon Signor, a dilapidated Hollywood hangout that's the site of Four Rooms' four stories. Anders' “The Missing Ingredient” casts Madonna, Golino, Skye, Davis, and Fun's Witt (who incidentally has the best line in the film) as a coven of witches intent on resurrecting the goddess Diana. Ted the bellhop's night begins here, with a bang, and Roth never seems to get over it. His performance throughout is one of the most impressive collections of facial tics and spastic gropings since Jerry Lewis' mid-Fifties peak; Lewis, however, had the good sense to calm down every once in a while, or at least play off the inimitable straightman Dean Martin. Roth has no such off button: He's on a roll from frame one, and the overkill becomes tedious long before the film ends. Anders' segment seems over before it begins and leads to Rockwell's piece on a couple's (Beals and Calderon) violent psychosexual head games that also goes nowhere (though Beals shines, even with a gag in her mouth). It's Rodriguez's segment, “The Misbehavers,” that works on all levels, with newcomers Lana McKissack and Danny Verduzco as the rambunctious offspring of suave-to-spare gangster Banderas. Conscripted into babysitting the devilish pair, Roth's frayed-around-the-edges bellhop has more than he can handle. The segment reminds one of the rapid-fire slapstick of early Rodriguez shorts like the award-winning Bedhead and Austin Stories: Filled with the director's brilliant, trademark rapid edits and a story that actually goes somewhere, it steals the show from Tarantino's capper, “The Man From Hollywood,” which is essentially a retelling of an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents show, itself based on Roald Dahl's short story “Man From the South.” A mixed bag at best, Four Rooms ends up perhaps a bit more schizophrenic in tone than its collective directors envisioned. Even some nifty cameos from the likes of Marisa Tomei and Bruce Willis can't save this muddled mess. It may be a hard lesson for Tarantino and the others to learn, but sometimes too much of a good thing is just that.

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Four Rooms, Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Roth, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Beals, Paul Calderon, Sammi Davis, Valeria Golino, Madonna, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Alicia Witt, Quentin Tarantino

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