Hotel New Hampshire [1984]

Director: Tony Richardson
Stars: Rob Lowe, Jodie Foster, Paul McCrane, Beau Bridges, Lisa Banes
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 109 minutes

Tony Richardson's adaptation of The Hotel New Hampshire proves that the unique qualities of John Irving's fiction are accessible in print and elusive on screen. (Not surprisingly, Irving's books were not truly successful as films until Irving himself adapted The Cider House Rules, although some viewers will prefer The World According to Garp.) Here, Richardson distills the essence of Irving but misses the author's dominant themes; the result is a film that follows Irving closely and understands its characters without ever giving them complete and coherent personalities. Without that essential ingredient, this film--about the exploits of a highly eccentric and dysfunctional family--grows thin and repetitious. We're left to enjoy the quirks of a fine ensemble cast, and the resilience of a family that has learned to survive by "passing open windows" (in other words, avoiding suicide no matter how tempting). Beau Bridges is the Berry family patriarch and resident free spirit of the Hotel New Hampshire, where his children thrive on liberal parenting, a parade of unusual patrons, and their own lust for life, love, and--in the case of incestuous siblings John (Rob Lowe) and Frannie (Jodie Foster)--each other. Their coming-of-age tales are often a joy to behold, and Richardson draws some excellent performances from his young, stellar cast. What's missing here is a sense of deeper meaning and resonance; the film seems oddly random, while Irving's book clearly conveys an affectionate fascination with the tenacity of the human spirit. --Jeff Shannon

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