This review was corrected on Dec. 26, 2001.
Seven semi-related stories set in a single room, “Century Hotel” escapes omnibus hell thanks to clever design and strong performances, especially from Mia Kirshner and Tom McCamus as lovers who meet over the years. Pic opens in Canada Nov. 16, and could do some biz in the States, too, if the right distribber checks into its freewheeling mix of decade-hopping period detail and shades-drawn sexuality.
A bit like what Tarantino and company were going for in “Four Rooms” — except that this one is watchable — “Hotel” interweaves tales of the people who land in room 720 over almost 80 years. When a gloomy teen (Lindy Booth) checks in on the eve of the millennium divide, an elderly bellhop tells her that a bride was murdered there when the hotel opened, circa 1920. In a series of well-tuned flashbacks, we see that event (with the original newlywed also played by Booth), followed by the comings and goings of guests from other decades, each depicted with a different palette of color and emotions.
In the most noirish sequence, Colm Feore is highly effective as a bookish Brit who tries to talk a cynical house dick (Earl Pastko) into helping him find his two-timing girlfriend.
The weakest scenes, presumably set in the late ’60s, feature Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maida as a paranoid suite dweller plagiarizing tunes from uppity chambermaid Chantal Kreviazuk. Neither can act, and their music has no staying power.
The strongest storyline — and the one with the most startling sex scenes — finds “Exotica’s” Kirshner all grown up as a confident hooker whose dominatrix mask (and more) slips when McCamus’ gentle john truly falls for her.
Also intriguing are the jade-green ’30s meeting of a Chinese picture bride (Sandrine Holt) with the young man (Russell Yuen) charged with preparing her for a wedding, and the sepia-toned home-front reunion of a WWII soldier (David Hewlett) with both his best pal (Jason Bissonette) and best gal (Janet Kidder, who looks amazingly like her aunt, Margot).
Director David Weaver, who co-wrote the slick script with Bridget Newson, keeps hinting at greater profundities than the stylish-if-patchy pic ever delivers, but the ride to seventh floor is never less than engaging, either. Moody score and tight editing are worth an extra tip or two.