“There’s an awful lot of kooks in this hotel.”
Response to Peary’s Review:
What works about so many of the gags here, I think, is how random and/or surreal they are — and, thankfully, how Lewis rarely lingers too long before moving on. In one of many throwaway scenes, for instance, Stanley is busy sorting keys into guests’ mailboxes, and apparently has been doing such a slow job of it that he’s still not done after an hour. He’s yelled at to finish, and hastily throws the remaining keys willy-nilly into the boxes. The next shot immediately shows a hallway full of guests wrangling simultaneously with their doors, none having been given the correct key. It’s amusing simply because it defies all rationality — that is, the guests would never all be trying at the same time to open their doors. Interestingly, in his review, Peary complains about this very fact, noting that “in subsequent films Lewis would learn that his character works best in an otherwise orderly world; here the world he inhabits would be wacky without him”. I disagree. It’s the very “wackiness” of the Fontainebleau Hotel and its inhabitants, I feel, that works in this film’s favor. Just check out the reaction of the entire crew of bellboys when a convention of models walks into the hotel, and you’ll see exactly what I mean… Stanley is not alone.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
P.S. Be sure to read TCM’s article on the film to learn more about its interesting production, and Lewis’s ground-breaking technique of videotaping alongside his primary camera to get immediate feedback on his work.