Don’t be fooled by the Adrian Tomine artwork on the posters and DVD packaging – Motel is not a graphic novel adaptation. Although the idea of making Adrian Tomine’s work into a movie is a compelling one and it is bound to happen. You heard it here first. Instead, it is the adaptation by director Michael Kang of a novel no one has ever heard of: Waylaid.
Ernest is a chubby Chinese twelve year old boy who works for his family-operated motel. It’s the kind of motel where you can pay by the hour and so isn’t exactly the best place to raise kids.
Ernest is lonely and seeking the attention of an older Chinese girl.
He writes a story about her and his sad life and wins honorable mention. But as his discouraging mother says, “Honorable mention just means you’re not good enough to win.”
He befriends a lonely Korean who helps him with misguided fatherly type advice.
But in the end they are still lonely and miserable and sad.
The movie is slow-paced and might have been decent if they had completely changed the cast for better actors.
It wasn’t entirely awful. I laughed at the scene where Sam, the Korean, brings Ernest food in the middle of the night and Ernest says “Am I dreaming?”
I liked it when they broke into Sam’s ex’s house and rearranged the furniture.
And perhaps the best scene of all was the very last. It reminded me of something Nicholas Cage said in Adaptation. He said that you can have a totally awful film but as long as it ends well, audiences will forget everything and go away thinking it was a good movie. And Motel isn’t an awful film. But even that one moment of perfection at the end isn’t enough to make you forget the 75 minutes prior of waiting around for it, not knowing whether it would ever arrive.