Title: The Hotel New Hampshire
Release Date: March 9, 1984
Director: Tony Richardson
Production Company: Filmline Productions | The Producers’ Circle | Woodfall Film Productions | Yellowbill Productions Limited
Sorrow floats, too.
When I was in my early teens my mom told my sister and I about this weird movie she saw on tv about this eccentric family who have a flatulent dog named Sorrow who dies and then keeps popping up in taxidermied form. Eventually we watched it together and it turned out to be even weirder than imagined. In retrospect it’s strange that I watched this movie at such a young age. You could put content warnings on this movie for rape, suicide, incest, anti-gay violence, terrorism and more, and yet it’s played for (dark) comedy. I don’t think these things went over my head so much as they didn’t hit me as hard as watching it as an adult. In fact, the quirky transgressiveness of the movie appealed to me and for a time it was among my all-time favorites, and I also became fond of the John Irving book its based on. It’s been a long time since I watched or read either, though.
The movie is about a family of oddball characters called the Berrys overall several years when they suffer several tragedies and strange events. While it’s an ensemble piece, two of the five Berry children, John (Rob Lowe) and Franny (Jodie Foster), are the main characters. Their father Win (Beau Bridges) is a dreamer who wants to recapture the happiest days of his youth by owning and operating a hotel. Over the course of the film, the Berry family run two hotels: first in an abandoned school in New Hampshire and later at a rundown hotel in Vienna. The stacked cast also includes Paul McCrane, Jennifer Dundas, Wilford Brimley, Seth Green, Matthew Modine, Wallace Shawn, Amanda Plummer, Dorsey Wright, and Nastassja Kinski as Susie the Bear.
The movie remains very entertaining. However, while in the 80s it felt like it was pushing boundaries of how controversial topics are treated, now it just feels like it has a lot of shock for shock value. Also as an adaptation of a very long novel, it tries too hard to tell the entire story so that as a viewer you kind of get whiplash moving from seeing only the highlights of various different plot threads. The movie still has a lot of charms and some great acting performances, but it feels like an opportunity was lost to make something much better.