Since Bart’s detached reaction to the murder strikes his boss and co-workers as weird, he’s transferred to another hotel. That’s where another plot device walks through the door. Her name is Andrea and she’s played by Ana de Armas, seen most recently in Knives Out. Andrea is sympathetic to Bart’s condition — “my brother had it,” she says — and Bart mistakes her kindness for love. But is she staying at the hotel by happenstance, or does she have a sinister motive?
Bart and Andrea’s relationship is the heart of the movie, and Sheridan and de Armas are the only two performers allowed the space to construct nuanced performances. Too bad the script doesn’t send them anyplace interesting.
Cristofer, a TV and movie veteran who’s probably best-known as a playwright, has said that Bart was inspired by someone he actually knows. Yet The Night Clerk is no character study. As in the much showier Motherless Brooklyn, the protagonist’s condition moderates whenever the story requires it. Bart’s unconventionality doesn’t hinder a conventional outcome, or even provide any surprising detours or asides.
Like many films that play on the affinity between cinema and voyeurism, this one intercuts naturalistic viewpoints with surveillance-camera footage and often captures the characters’s images reflected in mirrors. Looking is as complicated as talking, Cristofer seems to want to say. But just about everything in The Night Clerk is all too simple.