Yes, I realize this title looks offensive. But I swear to you I don’t have anything against Matthew Modine, and I don’t think rape is funny (usually.) But I’m compelled to deal with this issue anyway, for reasons I can’t quite explain.
Four weeks ago I watched a movie from the eighties called The Hotel New Hampshire. I had no intention of writing about it because it seems completely irrelevent at this stage in time. So irrelevent, in fact, that I saw this on my Tivo after recording it off of the Encore Love Channel almost two years ago. The damn movie probably isn’t airing on that niche channel anymore, and I haven’t had premium channels for a long time, so the channel itself may not even exist anymore for all I know.
Why did I record it and watch it, then? I saw the name while aimlessly searching for movies to record, and I had a vivid memory of the theatrical trailer. The movie was sold as your basic eighties coming-of-age exploitation movie, and because I was a high school loser whose only shot at seeing naked boobs was in movies, I’m sure I wanted to see the hell out of it. I never did, however, because when I expressed my interest to a friend, he informed me that the movie made no sense and had almost no boob shots. Instead, I rented Screwballs and was extremely pleased.
But something from that trailer has always stuck in my brain: a moment where a group of people, male and female, are tearing a young man’s pants off while someone in a bear suit approaches menacingly. Someone yells, “That bear wants you!!!” At the time, and I’m ashamed to admit this of course, the clip gave me a terrible boner. I had no idea who was who in the trailer at the time, but now that I know that the young man having his pants torn asunder was Matthew Modine, the whole experience feels doubly creepy.
And Modine isn’t the only actor of note from the movie. It boasted Beau Bridges, Rob Lowe, Jodi Foster, Nastassja Kinski, Wilford Brimley, Wallace Shawn, Seth Green, and Paul McCrane (who apparantly played nothing but young gay high school kids in the eighties–see Fame, for example–before he went on to playing nothing but people who met brutal deaths–see Robocop and the remake of The Blob–before he went on to constantly getting hurt by helicopters on ER.) The notoriety of the cast was astounding to me. Hot Dog: The Movie this was not.
A lack of accomplished performers in Hot Dog wasn’t the only glaring difference between these two purported screwball comedies. Hot Dog managed to make a lick of sense. Hotel, not so much. And with that, I give you the plot synopsis as best I can, something that has now remained in my brain for a month like some kind of fever dream:
First, we are treated to the history of the Berry family’s life in the hotel industry. You see, Mr. Berry (Beau Bridges) met Mrs. Berry while working at a hotel in…guess where. The hotel featured entertainment from a bear trained by a blind guy named Freud (Wallace Shawn.) The bear went wild and destroyed the opening day celebration in a very wacky fashion which involved a bicycle. Freud immediately decided to flee the country on a small sailboat, and gifted the bear to Mr. Berry. Mr. and Mrs. Berry of course then got married and enjoyed romance while taking care of the bear. On a walk through the woods, the bear was shot by a small boy. Mr. Berry wept by the bear’s side, and scolded the boy for killing his friend (I side with the boy on this one–if you come face to face with a bear and happen to have a gun on your person, I would say it’s a good idea to shoot it. It’s a fucking bear.)
This was the end of the introductory story, told in flashbacks as Mr. Berry related the events to his “children” played by Rob Lowe, Jodi Foster, and Paul McCrane, who were supposed to be high school aged but looked like they were pushing thirty, every last one of them. They were all very smitten by what seemed a tale more tragic than romantic, but as soon as the story was over they all began to fight, both verbally and physically, leaving me completely baffled only ten minutes into the proceedings.
Then, in whatever was present day in the film, the real story began. I learned that the Paul McCrane high school character was gay, a choice that ultimately meant absolutely nothing throughout the course of the film. Also revealed was–get this–lots of sexual tension between Rob Lowe and Jodie Foster (that’s right, they were supposed to be brother and sister.)
So then the Mr. and Mrs. Berry decided to open a hotel of their own much to their kids’ chagrin. The kids were put to work as bell-hops and bartenders (?) so they had to hire a middle-aged waitress to pick up the slack who also happened to be a part-time whore, and Rob Lowe immediately took up with her. His brother and sister listened to him losing his virginity over the hotel intercom, and they also saw him walking naked by the open window in the servent’s quarters, which ushered in the oft-repeated catch-phrase of the movie, “Always walk by the windows” or something as equally pointless as that, I can’t quite remember. Jodi Foster particularly got off on hearing her brother lose his virginity, but at the same time seemed terribly jealous.
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to mention that there was the other, much younger sibling, a girl who couldn’t age. She’s smarter than everyone else, but she looked like a little kid. Plus, the family had a dog that farted constantly which was actually the only funny bit in the picture. Unfortunately, the family put him to sleep at the end of the first act.
No, I have no idea.
After Lowe struggled with his relationship with the whore versus that with his sister, there was some kind of party at the hotel. Some random Black guy was introduced at the party, but I got no real feeling about who he was. And Wilford Brimley got drunk and had a heart attack. Rob Lowe got distracted by his sister, and the black guy went and hired the whore, which made Rob Lowe slightly mad but not really. Then Jodie Foster went for a walk in the woods where she ran into the school bully, played by Mr. Matthew Modine, and she was brutally raped by him and his entire team of football players. Lowe, in a search to find Foster, saw the rape happening, and decided it would be best to run and get the Black dude, who in turn decided it would be best to run into a bad neighborhood and tell the leader of a violent all-Black gang that the rape was taking place. The leader of the gang hated rapists because one got to his sister at some point, so the entire gang along with Rob Lowe ran back to the woods to stop the rape. At that point, Foster had already been raped by most of the team, so only the last two were foiled, and Modine escaped his beating by running really fast. Lowe then took Foster home to her family, where the incident was treated as if this type of thing is just part of becoming a woman. All she wanted was to cuddle with her farting dog which was already put to sleep unbeknownst to her, so Paul McCrane decided to stuff the dog for her as a Christmas present, taxidermy being his hobby. (?) And keep in the mind that everything got played in a rather goofy fashion performance-wise, in order for the movie to live up to the wacky poster in which the family is all acting goofy while riding on a multi-seat bicycle being steered by a bear.
Ultimately the hotel went out of business, so the Berry family decided the best thing to do would be to move to Europe and open another hotel. They reunited with Freud and his daughter(?) played by Natassja Kinski. She always wore a bear suit, which insinuates perhaps she was being molested by Freud? I don’t fucking know. In trying to run a European hotel with Freud, the Berry family got inadvertently involved with a group of terrorists planning to blow up some important government building. One of the terrorists was played by Matthew Modine, but there was no relation whatsoever to his other character in the movie. The terrorists, in a fit of desperation born out of nothing discernable, took the family hostage along with Freud, and then Freud pulled the sacrifice fly and blew himself up before the bomb could kill anyone else. Mr. Berry was blinded in the explosion, which I imagine was an attempt at some sort of irony. The family was declared heroes, and their daughter who couldn’t age wrote a book about their experience and became instantly rich and famous.
Then they went back to the States, suddenly wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. And Mr. Berry found being blinded an absolute treat. Now having funds to do such things, the Barry kids decided to get revenge on Modine’s Amerecan character, and finally I got to see the scene I was waiting for. But at the last second, Foster put a stop to the raping, so I was left horribly disappointed. But as if to make up for it, I was immediately treated to a sequence where Brother Lowe and Sister Foster finally consummated their lust for one another. They quite literally fucked all night. And once satisfied they could both move on with their lives. Foster married that random Black guy I mentioned earlier, and Lowe started a romance with Kinski in the bear suit.
Lowe narrated the whole film, I guess because somehow it was his mess of a story, and right at the end he reminded me how important it was to “Walk by the open windows.”
The Hotel New Hampshire.
That’s all for now, lots of love and kisses, Todd.