The Motor Way Motel is just as cheap and seedy on either side of the two-way mirrors the previous manager installed. It just depends on whether you are an active participant or a voyeur. With respects to the lesbian dominatrix who often stays in room #10, Ray will have to be the latter. However, peeping can get you a troublesome eyeful in Tim Hunter’s Looking Glass (trailer here), which opens this Friday in select theaters.
For reasons that never make any sense, Ray and his wife Maggie decide buying a roadside motel will cure what ails their souls after the death of their young daughter and the near collapse of their marriage due to his infidelity and her substance abuse. Old Ben, the previous owner was eager to sell and once they completed the handover, he made himself scarce. At least business is steady, especially the more secluded room #10, which is the favorite of the dominatrix and a hooker-hiring long-haul driver.
While cleaning out the utility shed, Ray stumbles across Ben’s peeping tunnels and finds them quite interesting, especially on nights the dominatrix books #10. Needless to say, relations are still pretty strained between him and his wife. However, things get real when a recent guest turns up dead in the desert. It has happened before they are unhelpful told. “Fortunately,” Howard, the coffee-mooching sheriff’s deputy is always popping around to make things awkward.
Looking Glass isn’t much of a mystery, but it gives Nic Cage an opportunity to bulge his eyeballs out like a cartoon character. Still, by his standards, this is quite a restrained, simmering-on-the-inside kind of performance. Regardless, the moteliers’ relationship dynamics are surprisingly down-to-earth and believable, even if the basic premise—that they would try to work through their grief by buying the Bates Motel—is not.
There are absolutely no surprises in this film. Seriously, we know who the bad guy is as soon as Suspect X struts into the picture. However, it is entertaining to watch Cage chew the scenery, along with the colorful supporting cast, including Marc Blucas, Bill Bolender, and Ernie Lively, as the deputy, the former owner, and the trucker, respectively.
In many ways, Looking Glass is a throwback to those 1980s cable-ready erotic thrillers that often had the words “bedroom” and “eyes” in the title. That makes it super-fitting to have Nic Cage peering beady-eyed through the mirror. Hunter certainly keeps it chugging along briskly. Since the 1990s, he has mostly directed for television (including the TV movie The Lies of the Twins, based on the same pseudonymous Joyce Carol Oates novel as Double Lover), but his first film was the rapturously received S.E. Hinton adaptation, Tex. He has had an interesting career. The gleefully lurid Looking Glass makes it even more so. It is not really recommended, but if you want to see it, we wouldn’t dissuade you, because it’s exactly what you’re expecting. It opens this Friday (2/16) in limited markets and also releases on iTunes.