One would be hard pressed to determine which of the following Amanda needs worse: a break from her mother or gainful employment. A case could be made that both are equally important. So imagine Amanda’s surprise when she is offered a job at a hotel located in the small Oregon town of Mitchell. It seems ideal, since it puts a fair bit of distance between Amanda and her mother while not only providing her a source of much needed income, but also providing her with room and board.
Her new boss Mildred is a quirky, eccentric, no-nonsense kind of old gal, who has a meek and simple middle aged son named Billy. As Amanda tries to acclimate herself to her new job and surroundings, she will come to find out too late that her sparkling resume and previous experience had no bearing on putting her in the position where she now finds herself.
In such a small town with very little hotel trade, why would a live in employee be a priority at the Oregon Hotel? Are Mildred’s motives selfish and nefarious? Or is she like many other mothers out there who just want their sons to meet a nice girl?
Brad Douglas was at the helm for this film, which he also wrote the script for and produced. It’s an interesting story, to be sure, but it left me wanting more. More of what? More twists and turns, more mystery, more development and perhaps more back story or history of Mildred and Billy’s family. The film goes by so quickly, only clocking in at an hour and eleven minutes in length, minus end credits. When I finally get to the end, it’s strewn with cop-outs and cliches that I’ve seen in other films. A good 30 or 40 minutes of extra story could have made a real impact by creating circumstances steeped in suspicion and doubt, while also heightening tension along the way.
The acting for the most part is solid, but at some times does become a bit flat or even forced. And some of the supporting characters came across as no more than one dimensional at best. As Amanda, Abby Wathen offers up a portrayal of a fresh faced girl next door type, with a little bit of an edge too her. She isn’t too trusting and naive, but it’s when she does allow herself to place trust in someone that it becomes more unsettling to watch her fate unfold. Marlyn Mason does a really good job of convincing the viewer that she is maybe just a bit quirky or eccentric at first, but is able to deftly turn on a dime and become the crazy unhinged old bat that she does. As for Mildred’s son Billy, Michael Meyer (yes that’s his real name…or at least his real stage name) effectively created a timid and simple man. Billy may have a sense of morality but his childlike nature may cause it to be somewhat dampened due to fear of possible repercussions from his lunatic mother. Max Gutfreund (that’s Max “goodfriend” to you and me, Rusty) makes the character of Brad (the cook at the local diner) very likable. He’s the kind of person that seem to be impatiently waiting for something or someone new and interesting to grace the town with their presence. There is a great deal of story that could have been constructed around him and Amanda, which would have helped give more shape to the direction of the narrative.
Utilizing a location like Mitchell, Oregon is interesting, because it helps to defeat the stereotype that odd, provincial or just plain bat-shit folks only carry out their bizarre hi-jinks or machinations in small, rural, backwoods towns in the South.
Overall, this film needed a deeper and more nuanced narrative to help an already decent movie be even better. There’s an opportunity to create a more disturbing and intense film while adding further depth to the characters and also staving off predictability in the story. What is perpetrated on Amanda is quite unnerving, but the fact that the “punch was telegraphed”, so to speak, somewhat softened the blow. 6 / 10