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Chelsea on the Rocks

Chelsea on the Rocks (2009)



Average Rating: 6.2/10
Reviews Counted: 27
Fresh: 19 | Rotten: 8

Abel Ferrara's loving portrait of New York's Chelsea Hotel is less interested in telling the story of its famous residents than in exploring the magic of the place that housed so many moments in rock history.


Average Rating: 6.1/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 4

Abel Ferrara's loving portrait of New York's Chelsea Hotel is less interested in telling the story of its famous residents than in exploring the magic of the place that housed so many moments in rock history.



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Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 770

My Rating

Movie Info

The documentary blends archival footage with an enigmatic interview style fitting for the Bronx-born enfant terrible Ferrara. Past and current residents wax poetic of the bohemian playground's storied history, mysterious metaphysics, and deified long time owner Stanley Bard. Bard was forced out by the hotel's board in 2007, and the Chelsea's inglorious past was threatened with a corporate makeover.


Documentary, Special Interest

Abel Ferrara, David Linter

Nov 9, 2010

Aliquot Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (27) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (8)

There's a great movie to be made about the Chelsea Hotel; unfortunately, this isn't it.

October 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a cheap, vicarious high to hear these unidentified denizens reminisce about the orgies and overdoses that seem to have been included with the rent.

October 29, 2009 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You may not learn much about the hotel itself from Chelsea on the Rocks, but you come away knowing exactly what it was like to live there.

October 15, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is Ferrara's first documentary since 1977, and it has the crackbrained air of menace and the ferocious humor that mark his fictional works.

October 9, 2009 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ferrera's shaggy tone, which fits the iconic building, gets irritating. Still, if you come for the stories, you'll stay for the company.

October 2, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Chelsea on the Rocks rambles a bit, but it's a real slice of New York history that includes everything from Ethan Hawke recounting a hilarious story about Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller at the hotel to footage of the 9/11 attacks...

October 2, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Post
New York Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A creative community is as fragile an ecosystem as any salt marsh and just as easily destroyed: Chelsea on the Rocks celebrates a hotel which nurtured some of the greatest talents of the twentieth century.

October 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Playback:stl

Fond and funky elegy

October 26, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

Nostalgic and fun to talk about but not that much fun to listen to. At some point the dead will simply rest in peace.

October 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Monsters and Critics
Monsters and Critics

A visually poetic, if erratically edited, portrait illustrating how "the energy of this hotel is bigger than the people in it."

October 14, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Unfocused and uninteresting documentary about the famous hotel for bohemians of all stripes.

October 8, 2009 Full Review
Spirituality and Practice

Often drags with poor editing and lack of sufficient insight while leaving you feeling unengaged and underwhelmed.

October 3, 2009 Full Review Source: NYC Movie Guru
NYC Movie Guru

...Ferrara has left a testament to a beloved place whose spirit has been corrupted by commerce.

October 3, 2009 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

In need of a re-edit like few other films, Chelsea on the Rocks isn't so much bad as it is disappointing.

October 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Paste Magazine
Paste Magazine

Ferrara found a way to adapt his ramshackle style to the documentary format, and his new Chelsea on the Rocks works spectacularly.

October 1, 2009 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Not exactly art for art's sake, more like a case of film for historic preservation's sake!

September 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Sly Fox
Sly Fox

Audience Reviews for Chelsea on the Rocks

Chelsea on the Rocks is a film that sounds like it should be an interesting and worthwhile film. Sadly, Abel Ferrara takes a setting and completely makes a mess of it. The film is so unfocused and unclear, that it ends up being story after story, in no particular order. It's unorganized to say the least. We, at times don't know who's talking or what in the fuck they are talking about. Unless, you recognized the person talking, good luck knowing who they are. There's no writing at the bottom telling us who they are. It's just endless "interviews" with people speaking about their personal experiences with the hotel. At one minute we will be hearing about the night of Sid and Nancy. The next minute, we hear about a guy having a stroke. Then we hear about the owner questioning a kid. Then about all the dealers. Then about ghosts. Alright a lot of shit happened in the hotel, I get it. Pick a fucking subject and go from there.

I was extremely excited to watch this movie, but that initial excitement was gone after the first 15 minutes. For awhile, I thought the pointless interviews were just introductory stuff that Ferrara would dive deeper into later. Nope. He had no intention on letting the viewer have any idea on what was going on. He also had no intention on teaching us anything about the hotel. But worst, he had no intention on making a documentary. This is more like a lazy collage of video. Pointless.

I respect Ferrara as a filmmaker. He's made some worthwhile movies in his career, but I have absolutely no idea what he was doing here. He's got an endless amount of people talking about their experiences, from Ethan Hawke to Milos Forman, with no clear idea on where he wants the movie to go or what he wants to say about it. An interesting subject is completely slaughtered here, and is instead made into a boring stream of consciousness.
August 1, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Throughout his stewardship of the venerable Chelsea Hotel, Stanley Bard aimed to encourage artists by either charging them cheap rents or deferring their rents but new management aims to run the hotel like a business, going so far as to evict some of its tenants. With his frustrating documentary "Chelsea on the Rocks," feature filmmaker Abel Ferrara aims to capture this end of an era while also proving that making a documentary is not as easy as it looks. First, the movie is unfortunately steeped in hazy nostalgia, even with the hotel's worst moments like the deaths of Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, here recreated with a little help from Giancarlo Esposito and Adam Goldberg which as always welcome as they are also ruin the illusion. For the most part, the movie tends not to otherwise identify its less famous subjects and it would have been nice to get to know some of them. Yes, we all know who Ethan Hawke is and the conversation between Stanley Bard and former tenant Milos Forman is fun to watch. That's a part of the anecdotal style of the film which ignores the historical details behind the hotel(except for a plaque). And bringing up 9/11 is not terribly relevant but it does lead to my favorite line in the movie about how it reinforced New Yorkers' willingness to stay.
September 13, 2012
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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