The Motel Life (2013) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Motel Life (2013)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: The Motel Life transcends its frustratingly uneven screenplay with some outstanding work from a talented cast.

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Movie Info

Based on the popular novel by Willy Vlautin, THE MOTEL LIFE is a searing and profound examination of brotherhood set in the timeless Sierra Nevadan frontier. Frank (Emile Hirsch) and Jerry Lee Flannigan (Stephen Dorff) work odd jobs, drink hard, and drift from motel to motel. Their only escape is through Frank's fantastic stories and Jerry Lee's rich illustrations. Everything changes when Jerry Lee is involved in a hit-and-run accident, which forces the brothers across the state to the home of Frank's old flame, Annie (Dakota Fanning). While the two seem safe from the law, Jerry Lee's insatiability and all-consuming guilt render their future increasingly uncertain. Like an outlaw country song, this directorial debut from real-life brothers Gabe & Alan Polsky finds beauty and hope in a world of casinos, gun shops, dive bars, and in the simple people who inhabit them. The film features animation by Mike Smith. (c) Official Site

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Cast

Stephen Dorff
as Jerry Lee
Dakota Fanning
as Annie James
Kris Kristofferson
as Earl Hurley
Jenica Bergere
as Polly Flynn
Garrett Backstrom
as Young Jerry Lee
Andrew Lee
as Young Frank
Doc Divecchio
as Boss Man
Noah Harpster
as Al Casey
Oren Skoog
as Barry Hurley
Hayes MacArthur
as Officer Cook
Scott K. MacArthur
as Officer Mori
Jim Gray
as Boxing Sportscaster
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Critic Reviews for The Motel Life

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (15)

Sensitive lensing and acting render an unusual story of brotherly love touching in a promising first film.

November 15, 2013 | Full Review…
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

Alan Polsky and Gabriel Polsky propel the material in a way that can feel over-determined. But they grasp the eccentricities and desperation of fringe dwellers, and at its strongest their atmospheric film has the pull of a sad outlaw song.

November 13, 2013 | Full Review…
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

We have seen many films about losers on the run, but in the directorial debut of former Chicago siblings Alan and Gabe Polsky, we get an intriguing new take on brotherly love not only gone wrong, but clearly hopeless from the beginning.

November 8, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

This independent drama effectively captures the spirit of much contemporary fiction: the tone is at once precious and stark, and the narrative drifts from one episode to another (and from realism to fantasy) as though it were playing out in a dream.

November 8, 2013 | Full Review…
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

As good as "The Motel Life" is for the actors, that's how bad it is for the viewer.

November 8, 2013 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

It's occasionally pretentious but ultimately moving, at least for the miniscule audience that will turn out to see such a downer of a movie.

November 8, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Motel Life

½

The dark indie drama The Motel Life is a macabre tale that's pointless and depressing. Based on a novel, two brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan, are a couple of lowlifes living out of motels and cars who go on the run after killing a kid in a hit-and-run. The film has strong themes of living in regret and brotherly love, but the characters are unsympathetic degenerates. Starring Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, and Dakota Fanning, the cast is pretty decent; however their performances are bland and uninspired. The directing is also an issue and is rather static; aside from randomly inserted animated sequences whenever Frank tells his brother a story. The Model Life is a largely forgettable film that doesn't really have anything to say.

Dann Michalski
Dann Michalski

Super Reviewer

Wow... what an unusual mystery thriller drama this was! I am not sure if I am going to remember it because of the acting of Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning, and Kris Kristofferson or the debutant director brothers Alan and Gabriel Polsky, and their unorthodox approach to a story which was doomed and gloomed from the first second of the movie, but kept going and taking us along to an amazing experience which could turn sour for some viewers with less patience! The screenplay was masterfully adapted by Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue from Willy Vlautin's novel of the same name. The film was shot in Reno and Virginia City and also features excellently animated sequences drawn by Mike Smith. The odd heroes of this movie, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan work odd jobs, drink hard, and drift from motel to motel... As orphans they found an escape in Frank's fantastic stories and Jerry Lee's rich illustrations, which kept them going the next step forward... and forward... and forward. But, everything changes when Jerry Lee is involved in a hit-and-run accident! The brothers decide to run from the law, across the state to the home of Frank's old flame, Annie James. Sadly, while the two seem safe from the law, Jerry Lee's insatiability and all-consuming guilt render their future increasingly uncertain. Real-life brothers Gabe & Alan Polsky show us their narrative ability and directorial skills to find beauty and hope in a world of casinos, gun shops, dive bars, and in the simple people who inhabit them, people on the margin of the society - so often ignored as invisible and insignificant! And all that was shot by the cinematographer Roman Vasyanov - this was his first American feature film... using 35mm film, he was lauded by critics for his "gorgeous snow-flecked cinematography." Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal stated, "It's admirable and even memorable, in its moody fashion, thanks to Roman Vasyanov's richly textured cinematography-he's a shooter to keep our eyes on." Indeed! A team which needs recognition - go and check it out yourself what I am talking about! It's well worth it.

Panta Oz
Panta Oz

Super Reviewer

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