All of which makes Michael Kang’s debut feature, “The Motel,” something of a momentous achievement. It’s one of the few movies I’ve ever seen that provides a look at adolescence truthful enough to make you cringe — a portrait chock-full of moments as heartfelt as they’re hilarious and as disturbing as they’re authentic. Indeed, other than Todd Solondz’s brilliantly miserable “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” with its bravura turn by Heather Matarazzo as Dawn (Wiener Dog) Wiener, not much else comes to mind, and certainly nothing that filters the experience through a distinctly ethnic lens….
The film, loosely based on the novel “Waylaid” by Ed Lin, stars newcomer Jeffrey Chyau as Ernest, a Chinese American kid whose family owns and lives in the motel of the title — a run-down highway hostel offering shelter by the hour (for hookers and their johns) and by the month (for assorted vagrants and drifters). For a chubby, myopic boy perched on the edge of manhood, the motel is heaven and hell; he spends half his time pressed up against windows trying to sneak peeks at couples doing the nasty, and the other half cleaning up the sticky messes they leave behind.