Usually, if someone tells me that a movie only gets good at certain parts, I’m inclined to believe that it’s probably not worth watching at all.
While the first part of the above is true for “Four Rooms,” the latter is not.
“Four Rooms” is interesting because it isn’t just a single film directed by a single person, but rather a group of vignettes. The four “rooms” (each takes place in a different hotel room) were directed by four different directors.
The unifying constant of these separate vignettes is the hotel’s single bellman, Ted (Tim Roth), as he services the requests of different guests in a slowly dying Hollywood hotel.
The only person adding any real star power to the directorial ensemble is Quentin Tarantino. Joining him is longtime friend Robert Rodriguez, maker of films such as “Sin City” and “Spy Kids,” and directors Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell.
While I’ve always been a fan of the first two, I have to admit that I don’t know much about Rockwell (save for the fact that I eagerly await the appearance of his latest film, “Little Feet,” on Netflix), and Anders is wholly unknown to me.
First up is Anders’s “room,” entitled “The Missing Ingredient.”
The first vignette is, sadly, kind of a dud.
Its rather simple plot revolves around a coven of witches who seek to resurrect their old coven leader. The only missing ingredient is Ted’s semen.
The vignette has its moments, sure. Tim Roth plays a pretty consistent game no matter which “room” he’s in, so there’s no disappointment there. It’s just not that funny. One of the movie’s greatest strengths is its surreal humour, which this skit has plenty of. Yet with all the weirdness that’s provided by a coven of sex witches, there has to be something in the writing that elicits at least a chuckle.
The second vignette, entitled “The Wrong Man,” is directed by Rockwell and is a considerable step up from the first.
In this room, Ted discovers that instead of finding the disco party he has supposed to deliver ice to, he has stumbled upon a domestic violence case in which he is mistaken for the “other man.”
The surrealism is still present here, certainly, but it’s not the whole source of laughs. Siegfried (the husband) is not only a drunk, angry man but also a drunk, angry weirdo. And what’s more, his dialogue is actually funny (take notes, Ms. Anders).
Rodriguez, the director of the third “room” (called “The Misbehavers”), has always cycled through both my good and bad graces.
For example, he gives us something good like 2005’s “Sin City” while simultaneously releasing the monstrosity known as “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D.”
Thankfully, “Misbehavers” doesn’t go the way of “Shark Boy and Lava Girl” (and “Shorts” and all the “Spy Kids” movies) and is actually a pleasure to watch.
The popular opinion is that Rodriguez’s room is the best of the vignettes, and I tend to agree.
In it, Ted is tasked with babysitting the children of an (implied) gangster (Antonio Banderas) and his wife as they spend New Year’s Eve out of town.
“Misbehavers” blends the trademark zaniness of “Four Rooms” with some solid humor. Granted, it’s mostly slapstick, but it’s good humor all the same.
The vignettes (and the film’s) most memorable scene is its ending, in which Banderas returns to find his room ablaze, his son smoking, Ted with a hypodermic needle in his leg, and a dead prostitute on the bed.
“Well, did they misbehave?” he asks cooly.
Like I said: weird, funny, great to watch.
The fourth room, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is “The Man from Hollywood.”
Long story short, Ted must settle a bet by being the representative neutral party and chopping off a man’s finger.
While it’s certainly funny, what I found the funniest about this room is the sheer “Tarantino-ness” of it.
Tarantino appears as a character (check). Tarantino makes obscure movie references in the dialogue (check). Somebody loses a part of their limb (check).
I guess that’s the side effect of giving Tarantino free rein on one quarter of a film.
“Four Rooms” is more than the sum of its parts. While it certainly isn’t going to win any awards for writing (I think the 14 percent rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes is a little harsh), there’s definitely something there worth watching.
Provided you don’t give up within the first 15 minutes, of course.