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Chelsea Walls
(pace and plot get a negative one star though)

Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio, Uma Thurman, Robert Sean Leonard, Steve Zahn, Paz de la Huerta , Rosario Dawson,Frank Whaley, Kris Kristofferson, Natasha Richardson, Mark Webber, Guillermo Díaz,Greta Gaines, Little Jimmy Scott, and Tuesday Weld
Directed By: Ethan Hawke
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I'm not going to be with the popular constituency here…maybe it's that I got what the filmmakers were doing?

Is it a great film? No. So why 3 stars? For it's visual delivery and glorious style! It's an "Art Film" folks. The story (a play by Nicole Burdette) isn't exactly enthralling or riveting. But, somehow, Chelsea Walls still manages to be a beautifully dark voyeuristic film worth a cinephile's venturing out to discover.

Director Ethan Hawke has painted his film, literally. Yes, painted. The story revolves around the infamous Chelsea Hotel in NYC. The one time dwelling of some of America's finest (and broke) upcomers and artistic types. Its halls have seen Jack Kerouic pacing…Monroe in a domestic dispute…Bob Dylan thinking about Blondes…Jimi Hendrix pick riffs and on and on. It's a colorful historical place and Hawke chose to color each silhouetted story in an actual subtle colored theme to reflect the mood of the scene; red room, gold room, ashtray room, that kind of thing.

The film's hubbub is it's another big celebrity turning to the oh-so-trendy DV film world. Again, take it out of the spotlight. You're an actor. You have a play you adore. You would love to see it made, but with a certain edge. Give it to a studio and wham it's Schwatzenegwillisvandamme blowing up the hotel FX laden festival of over done called "Chelsea Falls" or something. With DV films the budget is much lower, so if you have actor friends (or wives) willing to reduce their high-powered incomes, you can shoot. You still have to edit and package it-but I speak on a studio production level vs. the DV film level.

Kris Kristofferson, who's usually the kiss of death for a film (statistically), plays a drunken writer Bud…yawn. BUT, he's brought a certain soul to the part that made the character actually compelling. Tuesday Weld plays his codependent lover, and it was a pleasure to see here. Natasha Richardson also appears to be copulating with the alcohol swilling vermin. Her role was confusing and muddied for me…

Robert Sean Leonard and Stephen Zahn have the most "action" in the film as two songwriters, Terry and Ross, who have come to Gotham to make it big…

Frank Whaley plays a great slithering "back-to-me" musician and total ass boyfriend to Grace (Uma Thurman). Grace is a cellophane girl. Calm and unobtrusive to the point of being nearly invisible. Frank the resident painter (played by mansteak yumsicle Vincent D'Onofrio a man I'd love to mockbreed with) awkwardly tries to wiggle into Grace's solemn little world. The clumsy stumbling of budding relationships is captured brilliantly.

There's the miss-matched couple (Rosario Dawson and Mark Webber) trying to decide if they should stay together. I admit, these scenes were the dullest. There was no charisma between the two and I still have no idea where her child-like husband went off to with the "hoodlum" friends…truly tedious.

Dwelling within the mystical walls of The Chelsea we also meet a the gambling jazz musician (played by legendary Little Jimmy Scott). He has one of those free spirit lives and seems to just plainly exist.

Ethan Hawk, who's directed this indie to the max film, is a Swiss army knife of a chap. He does everything (except I imagine plumbing and surgery). He's a novelist, actor, director, producer, and candlestick maker. His first piece behind the lens is wonderful. the stories are a tad dull on film, but as it is so visually enthralling, the acting so well done, and the themes so compelling, I can forgive the loitering script more.

So, who's this film for? Thespian mongers. There's no real plot to be seen. The stories are slow and mundane. But it's still fun to watch some of our finest working actors indulge in their craft without a rat's toodleberry of who'll come see it. The cast is delectable, if sometimes groggy. See it on a stormy rainy afternoon when you're feeling all dark and cerebral. You know, that kind of day when art-house bugaboo is just what the day ordered and you'll sink into the nothingness of it and get the wonderfully creativeness of it! It's not for everyone, and some will hate it vehemently, others like myself will take it for what it is…disturbingly bewitching.

Hooray for the liberty of DV!

Snack Recommendation: Pizza and beer


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