A $5 million cash prize for spending 50 days in an empty room – how hard could that be? This is the question that the writer-director asks himself. Mukunda Michael Dewil in the high-concept intimate drama “The Immaculate Room,” starring Emile Hirsch and Kate Bosworth.
‘The Immaculate Room’ hints at other projects like Joseph Kosinski’s experimental drug-testing drama “Spider Head”, the sci-fi two-handed “Passengers” and there are even shades of “Squid Game” with the big cash prize attached, though the storyline is much less violent. Where is it?
Michael (Hirsch) and Kate (Bosworth) walk into the room with high hopes. If they complete the 50 days, they split the $5 million. If one of them leaves, the price drops to $1 million. Their food is a carton of mysterious liquid, “not exactly Shake Shack”. If they ask for a “treat” to ease the monotony, hundreds of thousands of dollars are cut from the pot.
Kate imagines the time in the bedroom will be “a second chance” for the couple – whose relationship has been rocky – and plans to invest her earnings. Michael just wants to “never think about money again” and be free to do whatever kind of art he wants. With quick efficiency, Dewil lays out the situation and then lets time, the room, and these characters do the work.
Michael is chaos and Kate is control. He does tricks, she meditates. He climbs the walls and she repeats affirmations. He is the it and she is the ego. How many days are left? Hours? Minutes? Will they emerge victorious, or even intact?
The Hall is a social experiment designed by a reclusive professor who has already tested the effects of fame on a normal American family with a successful documentary experiment. Although the results of this project have been grim, Michael remains intrigued by his work, while Kate is clearly money-driven. But why? They both seem at ease, though the class differences between them creep in, as Kate’s controlled facade cracks under the pressure.
Dewil throws wild cards like messages from loved ones, a gun, a naked woman (Ashley Greene Khoury), and ecstasy pills to intensify the madness brewing in the room, which grows less pristine by the hour. But essentially, it’s boredom that wins them over, allowing long-simmering tensions, grief and resentments to come to the surface. It’s a fascinating experience trying to make a film about boredom that isn’t boring, and Dewil doesn’t always succeed.
Despite some committed performances from Bosworth and Hirsch, and the use of highly stylized montages to pass the time – one a manic, rock-fueled ellipsis of the pair as highly productive and dedicated money-winners, the another a pink hue, a whirlwind of sensuality charged with ecstasy — “The Immaculate Room” tests the patience of the public as much as that of the characters.
Perhaps because their motives aren’t quite as high as the situation they find themselves in, it’s hard to understand why Michael and Kate are there in the first place and why they don’t leave. Dewil serves up an ending that’s far too stunning for the dark events that precede it. It’s all just a little too impeccably rendered to be satisfying, even compelling beyond the initial conceit.
Katie Walsh is a film critic at the Tribune News Service.
“The Immaculate Room”
Note : R for drug use and nudity
Operating time: 1 hour 32 minutes
Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; also on VOD
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