Million Dollar Hotel is an unusual film, even for Wim Wenders. It is his 20th movie and the first that he made using the new digital technology. Its bizarreness and depth was made possible by Wenders deep collaboration in the making of this film with six exceptional people: first, the musician, composer and benefactor Bono who contributed in many ways (when Bono was with U2 he did Where the Streets Have No Name); second, the Australian actor and producer Mel Gibson who plays the lead FBI agent Skinner and donated his time and energy pro bono; third, the inputs in creating a vibrant, fast moving and exhilarating script created from a story by Bono and Nicholas Klein by Mr Klein; fourth, the perceptive cinematography of Phedeon Papamichael who, like Wenders, loves his shots of heights and distances-note the continuous, flowing use of hotel windows from both inside and out; fifth, the superlative acting of Jeremy Davies, a young man only found after a casting hunt involving thousands and lasting for three months; and sixth, Milla Jovovich who heard of the film, read the script, and wanted the female lead so much she told Wenders to let her take the film test again, "I promise I'll do better than anyone else".
Tom Tom (acted by Jeremy Davies) says at the start in voice over "After I jumped it occurred to me, life is perfect. My life started two weeks ago after my best friend Izzy found Eloise ... not just a dumb s..t - she was the love of my life". Now the film goes back and traces what happened over those two weeks.The Million Dollar Hotel in the heart of Los Angels (filmed at Rosslyn Hotel, 112 West 5th Street) with the large metal sign on its roof has become a haven for California's outcasts - a welfare hotel full of derelicts and weirdoes. The film revolves around a core of a dozen of them.
Israel "Izzy" Goldkiss (acted by Tim Roth), a junkie, has fallen from the roof of the hotel. Was he pushed or was it suicide? His father is a TV mogul and billionaire; so this death can't go unnoticed. Thus enters FBI agent Skinner (a stiff Mel Gibson because of back injuries), a detective who doesn't ask questions but seeks answers.He assumes that everyone has something to hide. He is at home in this territory of freaks. Stanley Goldkiss, played by Harris Yulin, tells him "Jews don't kill themselves", so find the murderer.
Agent Skinner focuses on those who were close to Izzy, who passed himself off as a great modern artist, a painter of pictures that were all black-made of tar-but it is what is under the tar that counts. When an expert on art is brought in, Terence Scopey (Julian Sands), he pronounces that "the line between art and garbage can be thin ... sometimes even artists cannot see it".Skinner seeks out: Izzy's best friend, Tom Tom; Izzy's roommate, a phony native American, Geronimo (acted by Jimmy Smits); and the girl Izzy had raped, the book loving Eloise (played by Milla Jovovich) who has no feeling because she has been a woman of the night and is now a bit catatonic (at least at the start of the film). Tom Tom says about her, that during "the day she lived in her body, but at night she left it for others. I always want to protect her, but Izzy said, don't worry no one can hurt her, she's not even there". Agent Skinner gives his suspects a heavy hand and a kind one. When he tries to manipulate Eloise, she says to him, "It's too bad you're a cop; you'd make a great pimp".
Skinner's number two in the investigation, Charley Best (Donal Logue) often stays out in the FBI car while Skinner is pumping his suspects. Some examples of the strange dialogue in the film is when Best challenges what Skinner is doing; "I don't think your psych-out routine is going to work, because they're a little more afraid of their toilets right now than they are of you ... "One of the strangest characters is Dixie (acted by Peter Stormare). Tom Tom tells Skinner, "Dixie was in a music band called The Beatles ... only they didn't know it". Dixie is obsessed with his neglect and Granny Smith apples, and he speaks with a Liverpudlian accent.
At its warm heart Million Dollar Hotel is a romantic comedy, a rich and diverse love story between Tom Tom and Eloise. Until Izzy died he only loved her from a distance. After Izzy was gone, he began his tentative approaches.Eloise, a damaged soul, slowly responds to his attentions. Skinner becomes a go-between for the two.She sees herself as a "nothing". Yet, she says to Tom Tom, who at first can't articulate himself, "Tom Tom, you know ... you can't always say 'yes' or 'no' or 'I don't know'... you know ... There must be a reason. And it would be nice to know what it is. So why don't you think about it and I'll wait". Tom Tom replies with a poem, "Love can never be portrayed the same way as a tree or the sea, or any other mystery. It's the eyes, with which we see. It's the sinner in the saint. It's the light inside the paint."
This is a film that starts with a leap of faith, "Wow, after I jumped it occurred to me, life is perfect, life is the best.It's full of magic, beauty, opportunity, and television, and surprises, lots of surprises, yeah. And then there's that stuff that everybody longs for, but they only real feel when it's gone. All that just kinda hit me. I guess you don't really see it all clearly when you're - ya know - alive".The Million Dollar Hotel is two hours long. It is rated R (17+). The director is Wim Wenders. It is based on a story by Bono and Nicholas Klein, who also wrote the script.The cinematographer is Phedeon Papamichael. The editor is Tatiana S. Riegel. The music is by Bono, Jon Hassell, Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. Don't miss it.