British film director Tony Richardson’s decidedly jumpy, loud approach to Tom Jones shocked purists but brought him the 1963 Oscar for Best Director. In his adaptation of John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire, that same frenetic style leaves little time to enjoy what could have been a fascinating narrative. Richardson keeps things moving so quickly, events feel far to condensed.
The story concerns the Berry family: father Win (Beau Bridges), a teacher who wants to be a hotelier; the otherwise-nameless Mother (Lisa Banes), who’s loving but something of a cipher; middle brother and narrator John (Rob Lowe), who’s going through adolescence and has an incestuous fixation on his sister Frannie (Jodie Foster); gay older brother, Frank (Paul McCrane); little sister Lilly (Jennifer Dundas) who isn’t a dwarf, but somehow chooses to stop growing; youngest brother Egg (Seth Green); and their grandfather, Iowa Bob (Wilford Brimley).
Among the other color characters are a failed Viennese animal trainer, Freud (Wallace Shaun) and his bear State o’ Maine; a young woman (Nastassja Kinski) referred to as Susie Bear because her all-encompassing insecurity has her wearing a bear suit at all times; Miss Miscarriage (Amanda Plummer), an apparent terrorist who acts more like a servant of sorts and Ronda Ray (Anita Morris) a libidinous waitress at the hotel.
There are lots of characters here and events fly by. Frannie gets raped, John sleeps with waitresses, there are unexpected deaths, the family buys another hotel in Vienna, various relationships are consummated. For those unfamiliar with the book, the result is likely a series of incidents that make little sense as a whole. Apparently committed to presenting a film extremely faithful to the novel, given the 109-minute runtime, the story is so truncated, it doesn’t address the hot button issues of like incest, homosexuality, and the death of a parent without beating around the bush that helped to make the novel popular.
Despite several issues The Hotel New Hampshire features some fine performances. Roughly 21 when the film was made, Jodie Foster shows the confidence and mastery of her craft that would lead to a couple of Oscars less than a decade later. A young Rob Lowe exhibits comedic chops that he really wouldn’t reveal again until years later in Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me and TV’s The West Wing. Unfortunately, The Hotel New Hampshire isn’t a very good film; this is definitely a case where I’d recommend reading the novel before seeing this adaptation.
Presented in the 1.85:1 asp aspect ratio, Kino Lorber’s 1080p transfer isn’t bad. While I wouldn’t call the color palette exactly vibrant, it never looks washed out and remains appropriate. Skin tones appear normal throughout. Detail is satisfactory as is sharpness. I did notice a couple of scratches, but otherwise the image is rather clean.
The DTS-HD Master 2.0 audio track serves this dialogue driven film quite well. Dialogue is clean and clear, mixing well with the score by Jacques Offenbach.
There are no subtitles included.
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