NIAGARA MOTEL (Gary Yates). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (March 24). For venues and times, see Movies, page 105. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Niagara Falls really should be Canada's Monument Valley. It's awe-inspiring, unavoidably ironic and uneasily shared with Americans. It should be the place where our filmmakers work out national myths. There just aren't enough Niagara Falls movies.
Gary Yates 's Niagara Motel gets at least the tone right. Loose, affable and sardonically Canadian, it follows a collection of dead-end characters who've landed at a dingy motel through every fault of their own.
Wendy Crewson and Peter Keleghan play a suddenly jobless middle-class couple tearing each other to bits. Kevin Pollak , who also starred in Yates's Seven Times Lucky, plays an aspiring pornographer who's found his muse in the motel restaurant server ( Caroline Dhavernas ). Pollak is the amped-up American counterpoint to the Canadian actors, embracing his scuzzbag character with method glee.
Working from a script by playwright George F. Walker and Dani Romain , Yates executes a couple of hilarious set pieces. But Niagara Motel takes a long time to find its rhythm, and never feels like one consistent whole. Instead, it flows along like a typical wry indie film, then erupts in the occasional comic torrent.