In their second feature together, Co-directors Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo give us a short but intriguing mystery/thriller, Hospitality. Coming in at under an hour and twenty minutes, it still manages to pack in a ton of story and character development. Emmanuelle Chriqui stars as Donna, the owner of a bed-and-breakfast in the middle of nowhere. She lives there with her teenage son, Jimmy (Connor McVicker) who is somewhere on the spectrum of autism. People make a lot of references to his “slowness,” which rubs me the wrong way, but the people who mock him are the villains, so I guess that dialogue is there to show us that these characters are the bad guys, which I’m still not sure if that was entirely necessary.
“Donna has a very fraught, abusive ‘relationship’ (if you can call it that) with the town sheriff…”
Donna has a very fraught, abusive “relationship” (if you can call it that) with the town sheriff, Zane Hirsch (JR Bourne in a very convincing, stomach-turning performance). This relationship involves him taking a percentage of her income and coming over to her house whenever he wants to have sex, whether she wants to or not. It’s unclear as to why Donna accepts this arrangement right away. Something we do find out pretty early on in the film is that Donna used to be a sex worker that operated out of the bed-and-breakfast before her son was born. Something that I love about Hospitality is that the film does not focus on the fact that Donna was a sex worker, it’s more about what she chooses to do with her life in the present. She doesn’t seem ashamed by it, although Zane would like her to be to get more power over her.
Donna hadn’t had many guests in a while until a man named Cam (Sam Trammell) comes one afternoon asking to stay the night. Apparently he had stayed there before, back in the day when Donna was doing her old job. He asks if she remembers him and she lies and says she does. Donna isn’t the only one lying here, though. It turns out that Cam had left a suitcase full of money in one of the vents during his first stay at the bed-and-breakfast, and having just been released from prison, he has returned to find it. Somewhere along the way, Donna and Cam end up getting feelings for each other, until everything gets even more complicated than it is already.
“…Chriqui is incredible as a takes-no-prisoners survivor who will do whatever it takes to keep her family safe.”
Hospitality is a solid, entertaining thriller with a lot of twists and turns, some of the cliched variety, but others that are unexpected. The script, written by the directors, is effective at keeping the audience’s attention, though it can appear as a little derivative of films that are similar to it in tone, such as No Country For Old Men. The performances are very compelling, especially JR Bourne as Zane and Jim Beaver as “The Boss.” Sam Trammell is good, as always, but not as great as the supporting cast. Emmanuelle Chriqui is incredible as a takes-no-prisoners survivor who will do whatever it takes to keep her family safe. Which is a prominent trope in and of itself, but Chriqui plays it without being too eye-roll-inducing.
Hospitality doesn’t break any molds for originality, but the dialogue is excellent, and for mostly being a bottle episode, only taking place in the house and the surrounding property, the lack of set changes doesn’t deter from the story. I also love the songs in the film, which may be part of what gives it a Coen Bros/Quentin Tarantino vibe. Old country and 70s AM radio sounds abound as if everyone in the film is stuck in the past, which as the story unfolds, you realize most of them are. All in all, at under 90 minutes, it’s not a waste of time to watch this film. It’s actually at the perfect length, if it were any longer, it could have reached way too far into some of the cliches presented, and it would’ve been boring. Thankfully that’s not the case.
Hospitality (2018) Written and Directed by Nick Chakwin & David Guglielmo. Starring Emmanuelle Chriqui, Sam Trammell, JR Bourne, Jim Beaver, and Conner McVicker.
6 out of 10 stars