Baron Dave Romm (barondave) wrote,
Baron Dave Romm
barondave

The Hotel New Hampshire: A review with no spoilers

Maybe read the book, avoid the movie.

The novel The Hotel New Hampshire, by John Irving, suffers in comparison with The World According To Garp. Garp is loads of fun: Strange yet believable, with enough joy amid the tragedy to carry the story. THNH is mostly tragedy and I didn't really believe most of the characters. And I there are a lot of characters, and their stories unfold piecemeal. The narrator of the book, John Berry (we eventually find out his name), sticks in details hither and yon, getting ahead of himself and pausing to explain a key detail for an upcoming scene. The book works, but barely. I thought Garp was great, but THNH disappointed. Only recommended for Irving fans (of which there are many). I haven't read his other books, and they are now further down the queue.

The movie The Hotel New Hampshire just doesn't work on any level. The movie of Garp worked because they cut out huge swaths of the complex story, and because the over-the-top acting by Robin Williams let the supporting characters do their part without the need to fill in their backstory. The movie THNH tries to put in virtually all the plot and wastes some good actors. The pacing is such that you can't develop empathy for any of the characters, and the situations never seem like they're happening to real people. The horrible direction enhances the cartoonish comedy and pathos-free tragedy. Almost all the main characters are played by actors who are much, much better in almost any other movie. Wallace Shawn is wasted: He is perfectly cast as the always-upbeat-but-continually-downtrodden owner of a circus bear, but has just a few lines. If his character had as much to do in the movie as the book, it would be a better movie. Similarly Wilford Brimley as the grandfather/football coach. Jodie Foster is better in almost everything else she's been in; Rob Lowe, Beau Bridges, Amanda Plumber, even a young Seth Green. Heck, I was disconcerted for a second because older brother Frank was in this season's 24. Maybe this should have been a longer movie... but by a better director. He can't even decide who's talking to the audience. Maybe it should have been a shorter movie with a better screenwriter. It could have been three different movies, each better than this melange. In any event: Avoid. I'm not going to give it a rating because I'd have to think about it more than it deserves.
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