Chelsea Walls (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

Chelsea Walls (2001)



Critic Consensus: The meandering Chelsea Walls is more pretentious than poetic.

Chelsea Walls Photos

Movie Info

Actor Ethan Hawke takes the director's chair for a test drive with this independent feature, based on a play by Nicole Burdette, in which a number of creative types living in New York's famed bohemian enclave the Chelsea Hotel struggle with their muses as well as their personal concerns. Middle-aged novelist Bud (Kris Kristofferson) is having problems with his latest project, as well as his appetite for alcohol, while he juggles two relationships -- with his wife Greta (Tuesday Weld) and his lover Mary (Natasha Richardson). Audrey (Rosario Dawson) is a poet who is attracted to Val (Mark Webber), but Val has a hard time staying away from drugs, and his pal Crutches (Kevin Corrigan) is doing nothing to help. Grace (Uma Thurman) is trying to make a name for herself as a poet, but in the meantime she supports herself waiting tables; she's developed a crush on her neighbor Frank (Vincent D'Onofrio), but she can't figure out how to get him to pay attention to her. And Ross (Steve Zahn) and Terry (Robert Sean Leonard) are a pair of would-be rock stars who have just arrived in New York from the Midwest, wondering how to get noticed as they try to pick up women. Jeff Tweedy from the acclaimed rock band Wilco composed the film's musical score, while legendary jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott appears in a nightclub scene.

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Jimmy Scott
as Skinny Bones
Bianca Bakija
as Lorna Dune
Paz de la Huerta
as High School Girl
Harris Yulin
as Bud's Agent
Heather Watts
as Ballerina
Isaac Hayes
as Man in Elevator
Mark Strand
as Journalist
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Critic Reviews for Chelsea Walls

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (16)

It is dead on the inside, never quite achieving the movements and emotional solidity the material demands.

July 20, 2002 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Hawke's actors are a talented troupe, and even when things get self-indulgent and fuzzy-headed (and boy, do they!), interesting stuff is going on.

June 13, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4

Movies like this do not grab you by the throat. You have to be receptive.

June 7, 2002 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Were Dylan Thomas alive to witness first-time director Ethan Hawke's strained Chelsea Walls, he might have been tempted to change his landmark poem to, 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Theatre.'

May 24, 2002 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

The movie is essentially a series of fleetingly interesting actors' moments.

May 17, 2002 | Rating: 2/4

Hampered -- no, paralyzed -- by a self-indulgent script ... that aims for poetry and ends up sounding like satire.

May 10, 2002 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Chelsea Walls


Ethan Hawke's passionate directorial debut paints a mosaic of love, dreams, regrets and plenty of other things that we all experience as people. Hawke's unorthodox approach not only to storytelling, but also to film as a narrative medium, is refreshing and suitably out of the box. Aiding the effectiveness of this unique picture's beauty is a highly talented and convincing cast of actors. This is not a film that everyone will enjoy, but it's something I loved watching and it definitely appealed to me on a personal level.

Mike T.
Mike T.

Super Reviewer


I want to contradict myself by accident, and for you to know what I mean...

This film, which really isn't a movie as such, more a feeling of mood with snatches of conversation, is definitely going to be something of an acquired taste. Directed by Ethan Hawke, the film shifts focus between the various occupants of the Chelsea Hotel in New York (which in the past has been inhabited by various famous poets, authors and artists, from Tennessee Williams to Bob Dylan). There's very little in the way of narrative or story, we just catch glimpses of peoples feelings, thoughts, hopes and doubts. There isn't a sudden understanding at the end of the film, and the various peoples lives don't suddenly connect or clash.

The way it's filmed stops everything from feeling pretentious, or too much like a vanity project (which it undoubtedly is). In fact the way it's filmed (on digital video) - the dreamy, 'hypnoticness' of it - was what sucked me in and made me feel a part of it. The photography from Tom Richmond is beautiful in places.

Ethan Hawke has managed to assemble a sprawling cast, some of whom are very talented indeed, presumably all working for scale. Among them are Vincent D'Onofrio, Rosario Dawson, Steve Zahn and Uma Thurman, but the two best performances come from Robert Sean Leonard and Kris Kristofferson.

I watched this late at night when I was slightly sleepy, which is probably the best way to see this film. Cautiously recommended.

Daniel Parsons
Daniel Parsons

Super Reviewer

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