Four Rooms is the result of the collaboration between four of the most influential directors of the 1990’s: Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.
The anthology comedy film is set at a hotel on New Year’s Eve. The audience follow Ted the bellhop (Tim Roth) on his first shift at the hotel as he wanders from room to room attempting to fulfill the every request of its guests. Each film maker makes their mark on the hotel by directing the inhabitants of one room; and, you guessed it, there are four in total.
Tim Roth’s portrayal of Ted in Four Rooms does not disappoint. From room to room, he oozes energy: skipping, jumping, wiggling and sweating whilst cantering around the hotel. Ted’s every move is exaggerated. Roth brings a fresh take on the bubbly male character, and no homosexual stereotypes are thrown at him, though he uses his light voice and crisp, English accent to his advantage. In many ways, it is Roth’s performance which makes the film a whole. Without a strong lead, and commitment to the character, a movie with four big name directors would be unenjoyable. Instead, the comedy which flows through the movie links each room and is expressed greatly through Ted.
The first scene is from Anders, winner of the 1992 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best New Director. Hers is an all-female cast; a covern of witches who attempt to revive one of their own. Madonna stars as Elspeth, the head of the covern, a woman dressed in head to toe, skin tight leather. The Honeymoon Suite was my favorite of the rooms, for it proved itself to special. The women are written to be sexy and funny, a combination which, it could be said, intimidates male audiences and is thus scarce in Hollywood. They dance around, semi-nude, close together and chanting. Not one actress falters, embracing the weirdness of the scene which results in hilarity for audiences watching the drama unfold. A highlight is the discomfort shown by Ted around the women, who in turn tease him and eventually end up needing his services to complete their spell.
The next room is Room 404, written and directed by Rockwell. Following a call to the room where a party is taking place, Ted heads up to refill their ice bucket, however, he enters the wrong room. Suddenly, a fantasy hostage situation is unfolding before Ted, and he soon becomes non-consensual participant. A husband has his wife tied up and gagged and is accusing Ted of having an affair with her. Uncertain if the situation is real or a fantasy of the couple, Ted ends up with a gun pointed at his head. The best part of this scene is the shot of Ted hanging out of the bathroom window, shouting for help. The screen is split in half by the outside wall of the hotel as Ted’s body is suspended, his whole weight on the window ledge. Despite the creativity in the cinematography of this scene, the scene as whole doesn’t contain much action. Furthermore, I found the narrative of the scene quite confusing. The audience are aware Ted is at no real threat, though the husband and wife characters are written to compliment the faults of the other. Eventually, Ted escapes the room and checks the number on the exterior of the door, it could either read 404 or 409.
As every film fan knows, Rodriguez has a certain panache to his movies. They are effortlessly stylish, and usually dangerous. In the third installment to Four Rooms, Room 309, Antonio Banderas is the strict father of two misbehaving children. He and his wife wish to escape their little terrors for an evening, thus bribing Ted to watch over them whilst they party into the New Year. Chaos, as it surely does where the bellhop is concerned, ensues. The screenplay for Room 309is is near perfect: for example, the scene opens as Banderas’ character is scraping his son’s hair back with a comb, causing the boy obvious pain but he shows little regard for his son’s dcomfort. Eventually he gives up, angrily telling his son he has his mother’s hair. His wife’s reaction is priceless. The children display a sassy attitude towards the eager to please Ted, calling him for every little thing and driving him crazy. This scene is by far the funniest of the four in the movie and ends in a horrifically hilarious still.
The final room is The Penthouse. Tarantino directs and stars in the seemingly longest installment of the movie. As always, his acting is wooden and the scene revolves around him; Tarantino casts himself as “famous film director, Chester Rush”, the hotel’s VIP guest. By this point, Ted is growing tired and after phoning his boss to quit, he is persuaded to stay for one more call. He enters The Penthouse and from there the scene is seamlessly edited as the camera pans the set and the audience are introduced to each of Rush’s friends. The first half feels like Tarantino is exaggerating his knack for writing dialogue. The scene is fun, but pointless; nothing much happens. However, the narrative picks up in the second half as the characters educate Ted on their bet, which if he agrees to participate in will earn him a lot money: one of the men bets Rush he can light his Zippo lighter ten times in a row with no faults. If successful, this man will win Rush’s classic car, but if he fails he loses his “pinky” finger. After much persuasion Ted agrees to participate: it is his role to slice the man’s finger from his hand. The scene ends swiftly (WARNING: SPOLIERS) with the man failing to light his Zippo on the first attempt, the shot cuts to a close up as Ted brings down a hatchet onto the man’s finger, dismembering it from his body. Ted sweeps up his money and exits The Penthouse, anarchy unravelling in his mist.
Overall, Four Rooms is a well put together comedy drama which begs not to be taken seriously. The lack of action in some scenes is made up for in the cinematography and comedy provided by Ted. The directors created a brilliant common thread in the bellhop, the character’s physical comedy and exaggerated hyperactive mind is well portrayed by Tim Roth. For me, the best room is Anders’ Honeymoon Suite whereas Tarantino’s Penthouse is an anticlimactic end to an otherwise entertaining movie.