Chelsea Walls
dir. Ethan Hawke
Fri-Thurs May 17-23 at the Varsity.

I'm usually the last person to say things like this, but while I was watching Chelsea Walls, the indescribably boring bohemian blowjob directed by Ethan Hawke, a little voice inside my head kept repeating the following phrase: What the hell are you doing in a movie theater when the sun is shining? And after hemming and hawing about my responsibilities for a while, I split, after about 90 minutes of Hawke's 112-minute exercise in pretentious self-satisfaction had crept by.

What took me so long? It certainly wasn't the writing, which followed the (in)actions of a cluster of denizens of the Chelsea Hotel, the famous New York City artists' hotel. Unlike the folks who made the Chelsea famous, these characters aren't fascinating artists, nor even inspirational strugglers. Like most of the youngsters who line up to stay in the hotel these days, they're wannabes. I think some of them (like Kris Kristofferson's alcoholic novelist and Vincent D'Onofrio's tortured painter) are supposed to be secretly brilliant, but the script can't find the evidence; we're just supposed to get the idea because they keep saying things like, "Ghosts are our most valuable resources--they stay here at the Chelsea because we're the only ones who listen to them." Jesus fucking Christ.

Nor was it the acting, despite the presence of the likes of Kristofferson, D'Onofrio, Steve Zahn, and Robert Sean Leonard. No amount of talent can transform material this bad. Hawke gives them plenty of room, but the fetishization of their unconvincing squalor is maddening.

So what kept me around? Simple: Uma Thurman. The good news is that Thurman is still incredibly hot. The movie lives only when she's onscreen. Everybody else is so busy talking about art and sorrow and coldwater flats--so busy acting--that they never come close. Thurman is no great actor--at best she's good, and even that's pushing it. But her beauty, that magical blend of slender and voluptuous, is so transcendent that acting is an afterthought. Point a camera at her and it's a movie.

It's just not necessarily a good one.