{2jtab: Movie Review}

Room 237 - Movie Review

2 stars

Gather around all you conspiracy theorists.  You know who you are. If Elvis hasn’t yet left the building or if the most powerful people in the world are actually blood thirsty, extra-terrestrial, shapeshifting reptiles, then have I got a tale for you.

Labeled as a documentary, although we should all agree to use that term loosely here, Room 237 is what happens when idle minds spend too much time in the head shop. While it’s meant to be an intricate examination of the hidden meanings buried within the frames of Stanley Kubrick’s mind-bending thriller The Shining, don’t expect to finally learn the truth behind the bear-suited man performing oral sex on a sotted partygoer. You won’t find it here. But theories of Holocaust subtexts and a supposed self-confession about Kubrick’s involvement in the Apollo moon landing conspiracy will be deeply examined as Director Rodney Ascher gives the forum to a number of nut jobs who go on and on about their theories of what Kubrick was really saying.

Lending a wee bit of credence to the proceedings are the backgrounds of our esteemed theorists, among them a history professor, a playwright, a musician/pop culture authority, an academician, and a foreign affairs correspondent. But given that they’re never shown on screen nor do any come off as particularly convincing, we’re left a bit more than skeptical that any actually believes in what they’re trying to say.

One guy is convinced by the numerous cans of Calumet Baking Powder - he backs it up with an archive photo of Kubrick himself laboriously arranging the cans on the pantry shelves - and the Overlook Hotel’s Native American decorum that Kubrick is speaking to the destruction of Native Americans by the white man. Another rambles on about the hotel’s seemingly impossible architectural layout and disconnected hallways, while yet another seems to get quite jolly over a phallic paper tray atop a character’s desk. Yes, there are plenty more face-palming moments where these come from. Though many filmmakers often bury easter egg clues within the frames of their films, and Kubrick’s notorious fastidiousness and secrecy certainly play into the hands of those willing to speculate, this stuff is just absurd.

There is a bit of fun to be had, however, from knowing a movie can cause viewers and fans to geek out with such meticulously groomed passion, even though their ideas likely have no basis in reality.  And Ascher’s visual style - augmented by an eerie, period VHS graininess - accentuates the film’s air of forbidden conspiracy, even though the effect likely owes more to accessibility roadblocks and technical limitations of a 30-year-old film than an intended visual flair. The film was made without the Kubrick estate’s blessing.

Of course, there’s always the possibility we’re being hornswaggled by a tongue-in-cheek “mockumentary” fully aware of what it's doing.  But that would imply some level of intelligence is at play here. No offense intended, but it’s just not that smart. The conspiracy theories simply aren’t believable nor are they over-the-top funny enough to pull off a scam of that level. It’s all plain bullshit, and sadly, nobody knows it but us.

You’re not going to buy into much of what you see in Room 237, it’s all just too far out, like the desperate by-product of too much imagination and not enough family time. However, with absolute certainty, after seeing Room 237, you’ll never watch The Shining the same way again. Well played, Mr. Kubrick. Well played. How’s that for a conspiracy?

{2jtab: Film Details}

Room 237 - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: Not rated.
: Rodney Ascher
: Rodney Ascher
Scatman Crothers; Tom Cruise; Shelley Duvall; Jack Nicholson
: Documentary
Some movies stay with you forever...and ever...and ever.
IFC Films
Official Site:
Release Date: March 29, 2013 (limited)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
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Synopsis: After the box office failure of Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick decided to embark on a project that might have more commercial appeal. The Shining, Stephen King's biggest critical and commercial success yet, seemed like a perfect vehicle. After an arduous production, Kubrick's film received a wide release in the summer of 1980; the reviews were mixed, but the box office, after a slow start, eventually picked up. End of story? Hardly. In the 30 years since the film's release, a considerable cult of Shining devotees has emerged, fans who claim to have decoded the film's secret messages addressing everything from the genocide of Native Americans to a range of government conspiracies. Rodney Ascher's wry and provocative Room 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with cultists and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick's still-controversial classic.

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