Back in the mid 1990s, Lawrence Bender was writing his own checks. Following the success of Pulp Fiction, it seemed that Tarantino and Bender was the toast of all things film. Tarantino was writing his own checks, and his ego was out of fucking control, with Bender following suit. This was the point where Tarantino even thought he could act, starring in 1995’s Destiny On the Radio and in 1996’s From Dusk Til Dawn. But, it was 1995’s Four Rooms that seemed to be the ice in Tarantino’s pants.
Four Rooms is an anthology film about a bellhop (Tim Roth) in a ritzy Hollywood hotel on New Year’s Eve. With each segment having a different director, and each director seeming to have complete freedom in tone and visual aesthetic, Four Rooms never comes close to cohering as a whole. At 102 minutes, the constantly shifting tonalities are exhausting.
Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging) opens Four Rooms with The Missing Ingredient starring Madonna. Perhaps the most off-putting of the four stories, The Missing Ingredient is about a coven of witches trying to resurrect a head witch, but they’re missing a man’s semen. If the New Year is about renewal and revival, this is perhaps the only story that actually fits the theme. For some reason, this is the short that seems to grow in my estimation every time, but it’s still not…good.
Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup) follows up with the controversial The Wrong Man about a husband and wife who hold the bellhop in a fantasy hostage scenario. With a complete tonal change from Anders, The Wrong Man feels like we’ve entered an entirely different movie, and, back to back, it really doesn’t work. On its own, however, it’s perhaps the most brutal and darkly hilarious of the four stories.
Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) holds the third place with The Misbehavers, a tale of two hellraisers who find needles, alcohol and dead prostitutes in their hotel room even though they’re supposed to be in bed. Perhaps the most successful of the four stories, The Misbehavers is when most people are finally settling in to the confrontational theme that connects the first three stories.
That all changes with Tarantino’s mini-masterwork The Man From Hollywood, a retelling of an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. With The Man From Hollywood, one can see everything that Tarantino would work with in his most recent three movies. The bar scene from Inglorious Basterds, several scenes from Django Unchained, and the entirety of The Hateful Eight can all be traced to this one mini-movie, where Tarantino perfects his tension and talking motif.
Perhaps Four Rooms isn’t the greatest movie to celebrate New Year’s Eve. In fact, three of the four shorts pretty much use New Year’s as a backdrop without giving a single whit to what it symbolizes. They seem to regard New Year’s Eve as just a holiday for one to let loose. But, there’s some serious complications within these minutes that one can draw from.