The Immaculate Room was directed and written by Mukunda Michael Dewil (Collide, Retribution) and stars Emile Hirsch (Son, Midnight in the Switchgrass), Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, Straw Dogs), Ashley Greene (One Shot, Wrong Place), and M. Emmet Walsh (Fletch, Escape from the Planet of the Apes). It’s about a couple who take on the challenge of staying in a largely empty room for 50 days straight for a cash prize, only to find that reaching the goal will be much more difficult than once thought.
The Plot: It’d be a bit reductive to say that all “game” movies are the same, as the delivery is what counts, and there are plenty of options as to how the story will unfold. Most will take the time to indulge in the setup of such a thing, but Dewil unfurls the details as the movie goes, a more immersive tact, but the movie does share a lot of lifeblood with its competitors.
Couple Michael (Hirsch) and Kate (Bosworth) have entered The Immaculate Room; a large, sterile, white room that offers little aside from the essentials. They have 50 days to kill for $5 million to split however they see fit. The first few days consist of small talk, including questioning the creator of the experiment they’re now a part of; a “Voyen” whose odd spending habits make for the circulation of speculation. As should be expected, these days are the most uneventful, so Dewil speeds past them, opting to time-lapse the story to over 20 days into the challenge.
It’s not that the Immaculate Room isn’t without its stretches of dullness – that’s the point after all – it’s that the script doesn’t fully introduce concepts before executing them that takes the movie down a little. Like video messages from family members like Kate’s father (Walsh) and the “treat” system which entails sacrificing $100,000 for a break from monotony, both of which come out of nowhere. It does liven up the proceedings though, introducing Simone (Greene) to the couple while also maintaining the minor mystery to chew on, which upholds the story when it threatens to collapse.
Dewil has a good story here, even if the conclusion is predictable, it gets the characters to a point required for its drama to unfold.
The Characters: Sustaining interest in a mere two characters for 90 minutes in a stagnant setting is no easy feat, and the written end of the movie has a bit of trouble coming through with solid characters to focus on.
The closeness between the couple is decently illustrated, with a marital bond not in place, leaving the two of them to split the money once they’re released from their chamber. Both of them are clearly in love, as the movie illustrates with both of them cuddling with frequency and, at least in the beginning, are more than eager to spend time in a setting that affords no interruption.
Michael is ambitious but easily deterred, having dropped out of three colleges to do… something. Some details about the characters are obfuscated for seemingly little reason but the broad strokes are enough to skirt by. Once he gets his share of the money, he plans to fulfill his artistic urges and in so doing, giving a voice to the voiceless. It’s a bit overfamiliar, but Hirsch imbues the character with a sense of restraint about his intentions even when he’s being jokey or zany with Kate.
Kate is much more regimented in her personal life, waking up and starting each morning with a speech to herself about seizing the day, which is followed by meditation. This seems to come from a desire to shift away from the struggles of the past, which the money would no doubt help with. The Immaculate Room is forthcoming about her plan to invest the winnings but rightfully withholds the traumas she’s faced until farther down the road.
Michael and Kate are acceptable leads, though the movie doesn’t imbue them with quite enough individuality for such a long journey to be arresting in its entirety. Hirsch and Bosworth give terrific performances, but they can only get so far.
The Drama: Social experiments are tailor-made to be rendered with dramatic heft on screen (Real life experiments beget far more side effects than those on film), and Dewil captures at least some of the interpersonal conflict and environmental effects of such a scenario but fumbles on his way to the finish line.
A setting so vacant would get old in little time, no matter how nice the bed is. The movie takes some time to set up a routine, with a wake-up call at 7:00 a.m., morning requirements like making the bed, taking a shower and so forth. Stir craziness is all but guaranteed with such repetition, and The Immaculate Room is more than able to convey the feeling as Michael and Kate start out with genuine excitement, only to have that replaced with the almost unwillingness to get out of bed, knowing the day will be exactly the same.
What the movie is unable to fully capture is the most important issue: division. Brief spats and arguments break out between the couple before Simone arrives, but these conflicts are too spread out, too mundane to come across as legitimate. Of course, minor arguments would become breaking points if nothing else interfered but hearing a couple bicker about the life of a bug (named Cluey by Michael) for minutes on end doesn’t translate to immaculate drama. Plus, the movie doesn’t flow with the subjects, introducing new personal problems before reverting back to mundanity.
Simone’s entrance into the movie does repair things to a degree, as her nude appearance elicits bewilderment in two completely different ways from the man and the woman, and her easygoing attitude sits far better with Michael than it does with Kate; but once she arrives, predictability sets in, though this is probably the intention.
The Technics: Setting a movie in one location can oftentimes allow a filmmaker to get a lot out of a little, and this is true for the creators of the Immaculate Room on a raw level, but it does struggle in other departments.
Production designer Greg Lang (Chapman, Perfect) does a good job at creating a setting so devoid of personality that sucks the life out of the characters, but not the movie. Only two rooms make up the living quarters, a wide-open space with only ceiling lights, a futon, and a bed, along with a bathroom. The amount of space is almost an insult to the characters since there’s nothing to take its place, and the lack of any adornments is just cruel.
Pacing, on the other hand, is a stop-and-start affair. Montaging the days of nothingness works to remedy this only for as long as it continues to fast-forward them away. Conflicts arise nearly every time that the movie slows back down, and the tension between the characters fades just as often and as quickly as they come up. It’s never a slog, but fine-tuning was in order.
Nothing new is said about the cost of money, and the movie has its rough patches, but The Immaculate Room is a passable minimalist offering of monotony suffered for the sake of difference, anchored by two terrific lead performances.
The Immaculate Room is currently in theatrical release and available on VOD and Digital platforms via Screen Media. You can check their website for more information. You can also check FilmTagger for more films like it.