A smart, funny gem about awkward adolescence

It’s a mystery why some great little independent movies hit while others completely disappear. So while everyone else is talking about Little Miss Sunshine, we thought we’d highlight one that got away.

The Motel (newly out on DVD), which played for a heartbeat in theaters last summer, got pigeonholed because it stars a mostly Asian-American cast — including terrific unknown Jeffrey Chyau as pudgy 13-year-old Ernest, who lives and works at his mom’s dumpy hot-sheets motel in suburban nowheresville. Taking cues from all the dysfunctional grown-ups around him, he tries to figure out what adulthood is about.

The Motel’s wisdom about growing pains is on par with Sunshine’s, but its narrative focuses more squarely on the awkward psychosexual limbo of early teenagerhood.

It’s a gem, and we’re grateful to a VSL subscriber, a well-known screenwriter with no connection to the film, for guiding us to it.

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A smart, funny gem about awkward adolescence