Hotel de Love

Hotel de Love by Craig Rosenberg is, like Cosi, a fresh and amusing Australian film that puts Hollywood schlock like Fools Rush In to shame. It tells the story of twin brothers, Rick (Aden Young, who also plays Nick in Cosi) and Stephen (Simon Bossell) who fall in love with the same girl, Melissa (Saffron Burrows), at a party when they are 18. Rick gets in first and claims her, while she thinks that Stephen is just a good friend. Rick is unsuccessful in persuading her into bed because she has a “pact,” she tells him, with her future husband, to save her virginity for him. Stephen likes the idea of this pact; Rick does not. But the night before she is due to go back to England, and after returning home, she comes back and climbs in Rick’s window with a ladder, in her nightgown, and they make love. There are moments of great tenderness between them, and they promise to write.

Stephen, on coming home from an amorous experience of his own, is disgusted to find Melissa climbing out of the window. As they stand there talking, we hear the sounds of Rick’s and Stephen’s parents, Edith (Julia Blake) and Jack (Ray Barrett) Dunne, fighting. This seems to be a daily occurrence. Mention is made at this stage of what must now seem the cursed place where Edith and Jack spent their ill-starred honeymoon, the kitschy “Hotel de Love,” one of the features of which is something called Niagara Smalls, a little three foot waterfall. The younger generation is horrified at the very idea.

Ten years pass. We find that, of all places in the world Rick has ended up as a desk clerk at the Hotel de Love. Not only that, but Edith and Jack, escorted by Stephen, are coming back to the place to renew their wedding vows. This is a bizarre exercise, thinks Rick, “like watching the ambulance guys push the victims back in the car wreck: go on, in you go; you’re not disfigured enough yet.” Rick is there because he was jilted there by one Rachel. He is now wallowing in his misery at having been left and carrying on a loveless affair with Alison Leigh (Pippa Grandison), who does a clairvoyant, “love fortune” number at the theme-park hotel. The repartee between them suggests the battles of Rick’s parents, as when he says to her: “Don’t analyse me, I’m too shallow” or she to him: “I love being nice to you; it makes you so uncomfortable.”

Meanwhile Stephen is calculating the chances of a person’s finding love in the world by going to the airport and counting the number of people who are greeted with kisses and embraces as opposed to those who are not. He reckons the odds stand at 54 per cent in favor. It is his own response to the awful example of their parents, whose despair is rendered comically. On waking up in their luridly football-themed honeymoon suite, for example, Jack says simply: “Bloody hell! Still alive.” He then goes on about “one last breakfast to get me through the day,” and “one last banana.” Edith is still fed up with him, but finds an anonymous love letter to herself on the breakfast tray, with a little overwrought poetry inside. “My tongue searches for your damp wisdom.”

Who should turn up but Melissa with her latest boyfriend, Norman (Peter O’Brien). She spars a bit with Rick, because he never wrote to her. Rick’s sour attitude finds gnomic expression: “Men and women can’t be honest with each other; the whole social fabric would break down.” But Rick is still in love with Melissa and he tries to persuade her of this. She insists that she is going to marry Norman. And that the two of them are completely honest with each other.

“You have created a complete fantasy out of me; it’s a complete illusion,” she tells Rick.

“That’s love!” he replies.

When Norman takes the news of Rick’s presence badly, and Melissa begins to get more and more emotional, it becomes clear that she still cares for Rick too. Best bit of picture is the moment of Rick’s and Melissa’s two minutes of absolute honesty with each other. Melissa asks “Why do men lie?” This is a hard one, and Rick asks to be allowed to warm up with some other questions. Finally, however, he answers: Because, he says, we are not as good as you are, and we want to hide our failings so as to be allowed to be near to you. If we’re near you some of your goodness might rub off, and we will be better.” Whatever may be the truth of this observation, it is one to which the movie is faithful.

Edith finds that it was (of course) Jack who was writing her the anonymous letters. They decide to stay together after first having decided that it is time they divorce. Rick looks on in amazement at their reconciliation and says to the old and very bad piano player: “Maybe there’s something to this marriage thing after all; what do you think?” He never stays for a reply to these outpourings, but this time the piano player grabs him by the arm and gives him the pithy message: “The trick is doing it with the right person.”

So off he goes in pursuit of Melissa, who resists the temptation to leave Norman at the altar only to tell him, once they are in the car together: “I want a divorce.”

Rick and Melissa are married, we are told by Stephen, the narrator, a year later. He himself gets Alison on the rebound, having learned that she was at the same party where he and Rick first saw Melissa, and that if he had simply turned his head he would have seen her. And she’s the one! He promises to wait for her when she goes to “the beautiful city of Barcelona” —a trip she has deferred for one boyfriend after another and is not going to defer again. She says don’t bother to wait. She is not even sure she is coming back. He ends going down to the airport to wait for her to return every week, continuing his calculations on the chances of finding love, which he reckons are improving.

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