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.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 12 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 8
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 8
  3. Negative: 3 out of 8
  1. MatthewP
    Apr 26, 2009
    Ethan Hawke obviously has no idea how to make a movie. From the beginning, I feel like I'm watching actors act, not characters in a story. The film rushes me around to several scenes and nothing from any of them sticks (the bad camerawork makes an impression though). Plus everyone is just spouting pseudo-philosophical jargon. Hasn't Hawke taken Creative Writing 101? SHOW, Don't tell...This film actually made me angry. I couldn't finish it. It's the worst movie I've seen in a while. Full Review »
  2. AdamM
    Aug 10, 2007
    I thought that the movie was above avg. It did have a unique plot, but some of the senes were kind of lengthy. I have been by this place on my rollerblades going to the chelsea skate park on the pier. Anyways I like the music and the art keep these movies coming. THANKS. Full Review »
  3. PJ
    Jun 30, 2006
    I don't understand the series of 10's this film earned in the user ratings. If a film like Citizen Kane represents a generally accepted level of supreme fillmmaking, and therefore worthy of a 10, Chelsea Walls is nowhere near that mark. In addition, the notion that anyone giving this film a poor review, is either not very bright or didn't view the film with an open mind, is rather immature. This film was recommended to me by a friend, with whom I share a similar taste in film. So, I went into this expecting to like the Chelsea Walls...but that's not how it turned out. First off, the grainy digital picture and lifeless camerawork make the visuals an absolute chore to take in. The dim interior and exterior lighting doesn't help matters any. As far as the actual performances go, there were a few actors that turned in intermittently compelling performances. However, the amount of time devoted to most of the characters is brief which doesn't allow for much development. Not only were the individual story arcs quite thin, they also failed to interweave in a manner that added anything of value to the plot line. In general, everything about this film seemed very contrived and amateurish. It plays more like a documentary than an ensemble drama. Had this been a documentary chronicling the lives of actual Chelsea residents, I would've been more receptive, and been able to take the characters seriously. Yet, it's a fictional tale of struggling artists pretentiously portrayed by established actors in somber settings. The most pressing question this film raises, is just what the filmmakers were trying to express about the Chelsea and its residents. Apparently, what was once a grand hotel that housed some of histories greatest American artists, is now nothing more than a run-down haven for aimless deadbeats who's personal problems will prevent them from ever making great art. That seemed to be the sentiment of the two cops in the film, and is what makes them, sadly, the only two characters I could really identify with. If I had to describe this film in one word, that word would be "bleak." Full Review »