Review by Ale Turdó
The Bellmen is writer/director Cameron Fife’s second feature film. A comedy that takes us deep into deadpan territory, involving the most curious and unlikely ensemble of employees —mainly the titular bellmen— working at the King Saguaro Hotel, a popular resort located in Tucson, Arizona.
Steve (Adam Ray) is the captain of the bellmen —a position whose veracity I will not dig into just for the sake of keeping this review running smoothly— and tries to impress his crush Kelly (Kelen Coleman) by lying about a promotion as hotel assistant manager coming his way. Right in the middle of this sort of rom-com scenario we have bellman trainee Josh (Josh Zuckerman), hotel owner Sid (Richard Kind), new-age schemer fraud Gunther Gochamonet (Thomas Lennon) and a vast assortment of wacky characters hopelessly getting into all kinds of trouble while trying to get some work done inside the facility. This includes puppets and anthropomorphous working cactus, which forces me to stress the actual meaning of vast assortment.
Meta humor and self-referential puns are key elements in The Bellmen. The absurd-o-meter —something as made up as “bellmen captain”— is definitively peaking at this one. It is fair to say that some may consider its comedic approach unsatisfying or downright unfunny. If you are not a fan of this type of comedy, it can be a hard pill to swallow.
But the goofiness and good-hearted nature of the main characters is worthy of at least some appreciation. Even at times when the main plot dislodges and takes the back seat for a while, you can rely on random funny moments from peripheral characters.
Richard Kind is probably the most well-known player at this joint, and in spite of having a shorter screen time, you can immediately notice just how natural this particular type of comedy flows thru him.
The directing style suggests that a great deal of what happens on every scene is improvised (something that we can verify thanks to the outtakes included in the end credits). It requires a special kind of skill to be up to the task of improvising and keeping the humor fresh at the tip of the tongue whenever a scene needs it.
Aesthetically, it may not be the shiniest or best-looking feature. One can tell where their limited budget was aimed at and in what non-critical areas they tried to save as much money as possible. Performance is the most important component here: if something is funny enough to keep the audience engaged, they don’t mind how pretty the background looks or think that the photography could have done a better job.
Some say comedy is the hardest genre. It takes craftsmanship to make someone laugh. So even if The Bellmen may not be everybody’s cup of tea, it can definitively grant a few chuckles if you are in the mood for silliness.
Ale Turdó —Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Alejandro is a film critic and movie enthusiast that has been writing about movies for the past 7 years, covering everything from blockbusters to indie gems and all in between. He majored in Sound Design and Cinematography in college and is a full time digital content producer. He’s the kind of guy that thinks that even the worst movie can have something interesting to write about. Additionally, he writes for Escribiendo Cine and A Sala Llena. Twitter: @aleturdo and IG: @hoysalecine