GenreComedy, Drama Budget250,000 USD WriterMichael Kang
Release dateJanuary 24, 2005 (Sundance) Initial releaseJune 28, 2006 (New York City) CastJeffrey Chyau (Ernest), Sung Kang (Sam), Jade Wu (Ahma Chin), Samantha Futerman (Christine), Alexis Chang (Katie (as Alexis Kapp Chang)), Stephen Chen (Gung Gung) Similar moviesHappythankyouplease (2010), Real Women Have Curves (2002), The Sterile Cuckoo (1969), Angus (1995), House of D (2004)
TaglineOut of Place in the Middle of Nowhere.
The motel trailer
The Motel (2006) is the debut feature from director Michael Kang. The film won the Humanitas Prize in the Sundance Film Festival category, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.
Thirteen-year-old Ernest Chin's life is devoted to working at his family's hourly-rate motel, where a steady stream of prostitutes, johns, and various other shady characters come and go. Abandoned by his father, he lives with his mother, grandfather, and younger sister Katie. The film is a loosely assembled series of vignettes examining the difficulty of adolescence. Recurring themes include painful encounters with a bully named Roy and Ernest's persistent feelings of being misunderstood by his family. Ernest also blindly explores his incipient sexuality, which includes nursing a crush on Christine, an older girl who works at a Chinese restaurant nearby. Ernest's life changes after he meets the newest guest at the motel: a self-destructive yet charming Korean-American man named Sam Kim (Sung Kang), who is caught in a downward spiral after estrangement from his wife.
The Motel was met with critical acclaim and particular praise went to Michael Kang's directing. The film scored a rating of 87% on the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews.
Bob Longino of Atlanta Journal-Constitution liked the film and wrote, "There is honesty and integrity in the filmmaking and the performances, which make The Motel among the best character studies of the year."
Elizabeth Weitzman from New York Daily News said that the Motel is "Unlike so many indie films, Michael Kang's gently empathetic debut embraces eccentricity without drowning in its own hip irony."
V.A. Musetto of the New York Post exclaimed in his review "Kang makes an impressive feature directorial debut with The Motel. But the person to keep an eye on is Jeffrey Chyau, a student at the Bronx High School of Science, who is a delight in the lead role."
Stephen Holden of the New York Times wrote in his positive review that "Michael Kang's small, perfectly observed portrait of a Chinese-American boy captures the glum desperation of inhabiting the biological limbo of early adolescence."
Joey Leydon at Variety magazine said of the film, "Indie coming-of-age dramedy about a precocious Chinese-American youth whose family operates a sleazy roadside motel signals arrival of a singularly promising filmmaker." and ended with comparing Kang's directing to acclaimed Indie directors Francois Truffaut and Frank Whaley saying "Writer-director Michael Kang covers familiar territory mined memorably by auteurs ranging from Francois Truffaut to Frank Whaley."