Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 18 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 18
  2. Negative: 9 out of 18
  1. Ethan Hawke, in his feature directorial debut, has brought Nicolette Burdette's play to the screen with fluid grace and a perfect blend of dreaminess and grit, expressed in camerawork that seems to float and in Jeff Tweedy's shimmering, gently insistent score.
  2. 75
    Movies like this do not grab you by the throat. You have to be receptive.
  3. The cast is certainly impressive, and probably reason enough for seeing this.
  4. Too freewheeling for its own good, like a Robert Altman ensemble piece without a gravitational core. But 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.
  5. Reviewed by: Patrick Z. McGavin
    Aims for a sadness and desperation that is crudely announced rather than subtly demonstrated.
  6. 50
    Does become more engaging as it lurches along, perhaps because you give up hoping that anything will really happen and settle into the Nicolas Roeg-meets-David Lynch-at-the-cast-party-for-"Taxi Driver" atmosphere of mid-'70s nothingness.
  7. Yet the movie sustains a mood. It passionately believes in itself and in the value of the messy artistic lives it glosses, and some of that belief rubs off on you.
  8. The ethos of the Chelsea Hotel may shape Hawke's artistic aspirations, but he hasn't yet coordinated his own DV poetry with the Beat he hears in his soul.
  9. 40
    The few minutes of footage devoted to a performance by bona fide jazz artist "Little" Jimmy Scott, an eccentric cult favorite, is more genuinely evocative than anything else in the film
  10. Reviewed by: Mark Olsen
    Pretension, in its own way, is a form of bravery. For this reason and this reason only -- the power of its own steadfast, hoity-toity convictions -- Chelsea Walls deserves a medal.
  11. 30
    Works equally poorly as a tourist brochure and as a drama.
  12. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Speak a great deal, but they don't have much to say. A dull ensembler.
  13. With most movies that fail, the fault can be ascribed to carelessness or lack or inspiration or cynicism. But Chelsea Walls, directed by actor Ethan Hawke, is clearly a labor of love.
  14. Reviewed by: Erin Meister
    As for Hawke's direction, if there is any, it certainly isn't apparent. The shots are frequently bland and uneven, and the players act as though their only instruction was ''Just show up at the set and remember your lines.'' At least they seem to have gotten that much right.
  15. The digital-video results play like a flatulent teenager's first discovery of jazz, cigarettes, and hooch.
  16. 20
    With virtually no interesting elements for an audience to focus on, Chelsea Walls is a triple-espresso endurance challenge.
  17. The actor's directorial debut is a lugubriously poetic homage to the famed Chelsea Hotel, which is to New York's artistic and beatnik past what Ellis Island is to the story of American immigration.
  18. Calling it pretentious doesn't do justice to the toxic faux-bohemianism and unearned self-regard that bubble and ooze out of every aspect of Chelsea Walls.

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