As indie comedies go, No Vacancy, the 1999 sort-of-ensemble indie comedy tries desperately to be off the wall and kooky, but just falls flat and limp all over. It’s really a shame too, because it’s got some great character actors that I’d follow any cinematic route they go. Joaquim de Almeida is one of my personal faves. If you haven’t already, check out one of his best portrayals in The Burning Plain (which I reviewed previously, here). It’s also starring Christina Ricci, and I’m thinking in 1999 she was the primary reason for this movie ever being made or shed any light upon.
Ricci is okay, nothing spectacular for her oeuvre or anything, but the best thing about her performance is how she’s inter-cut throughout the film. There’s a nice editing pace to the whole feature, but in simple afterthought, much of this film is superfluous and could be cut. It’s one of those rom-com’s where pretty much every character ends up finding the person they’re meant to be with by the end of the movie. Now, yes, I may be a cynic, but I’m all for happy ending love stories in the cinema. I just don’t like the ones that waste my time up until the two people get together. Honestly, this would have probably been much better as a short. The characters are so easily pigeonholed, no back story is even necessary to involve the audience right from the first scenes.
Timothy Olyphant is Ricci’s “true” love interest, a refrigerator repairman who lives in Tarzana, just outside of Los Angeles. The story uses him as a sort of pivot point, like a compass, he guides the story where it wants to go next for the most part. The crazy cast of characters are all Hollywood rejects and oddballs who live together (and/or are just passing through) in a neon-lit side-of-the-road motel in the middle of Dead-ville.
In room #1 we have the virtuoso violinist who no one “gets” because, you know, he’s a genius, and no one ever “gets” geniuses in movies. Next door to him are two doped up losers who’ve had a long night of partying with some escorts above their budget. Then there’s the new age-y woman, played annoyingly by Lolita Davidovich. She makes people drink beet juice, wears weirdly colorful bile-based exfoliating masks and doesn’t know when to stop.
Anyway, you get the point, right? It’s your standard cast of lovable idiots, they’ll all eventually meet, the obvious conflicts will ensue and be handled, and once you see it, you’ll wish you could get your 80+ minutes back. Oh, and as a sort of coda, the filmmakers thought it would be funny to show a cat electrocuted in a pool! Just in case you didn’t like the movie up until that point, you know.