Hotel Gramercy Park (2008) Poster

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A New York Landmark
LynxMatthews16 February 2010
I've lived in NYC for 13 years and did not know the history of the Gramercy Park Hotel, so this was eye-opening and, if, as someone quotes in the movie, every building has a story, I wouldn't mind a documentary like this for every building in the city.

The film tells the story of the once-proud Gramercy Park Hotel, once opulent enough to house Humphrey Bogart and Babe Ruth, and how it declined over the years, finding a new life as a bohemian hellhole, the drug and party HQ for a lot of punk rockers and NY nightlife luminaries. The story continues past the decline into the rebirth as Ian Schrager of Studio 54 Fame buys and renovates it into a modern and chic spot.

You follow the story of the Weissbergs, who owned the hotel into its decline, living in it through all the madness and their own family tragedies. Schrager, the perfectionist as he pulls off what he calls his most difficult job of his life. And a handful of old school tenants who decide to live in the building while it is being renovated.

A fascinating if not intensely dramatic story. The Weissbergs tale of how the hotel sort of destroyed their family is the most intriguing, although not entirely explained. That is, things that happened to the family could have happened if they didn't live in the hotel. The Schrager element is interesting in that one first thinks he is going to totally be an evil developer character, the villain of the piece, but he actually just seems like someone wanting to do the best with the property and learn from past mistakes. The people who stayed there during the renovation seem mainly a little kooky, but not overly so.

All told, a fine bit of NY history and look at how old NYC is being supplanted by new NYC all the time, for better and/or for worse.
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Fascinating documentary mixing New York City history with personal melodrama...
moonspinner5527 May 2010
Ian Schrager, once the co-owner of New York City's hottest nightclub Studio 54, paid his dues after that business debacle and went on to become a highly-respected renovator of New York landmarks, a man with a keen eye for style but one with a perfectionist vision. His challenge in refurbishing the once-luxurious Hotel Gramercy Park became the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, what with extensive labor inside and outside, hiring and training a new staff, dealing with the hotel's sordid past, as well as working around assorted residents (young musicians and the somewhat deluded elderly). The grandchildren of the original owner (whose uncle jumped to his death from the hotel balcony) have a most interesting relationship with their father (a naïve, self-styled bon vivant), and their complaints about the building upgrades speak volumes about how we put a face-lift on the past, giving it a new sheen but removing the structure's personality in the bargain. The filming technique is of the point-and-shoot school, but with such amazing, talented, and volatile personalities on display, the piece can't help but be absorbing and emotional. **1/2 from ****
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documentary of a family & its hotel in NYC
ksf-26 June 2012
Family members and hotel guests tell stories about their experiences either owning or living at the hotel in this offbeat documentary. It's worth watching just to see Debbie Harry and others reminisce by talking to the camera, with a happiness and sadness at the same time. More than one of the former occupants talks about how beat up and decrepit the furnishings were, and now we see the hotel is under-going renovation.

Much like the 1997 film "Wonderland" by O'Hagan, which described the families that originally moved into Levittown after WWII, H.G.P. will also show you the characters and celebrities that have lived and stayed here. While the owner/father always seems to be on the phone, his son and a cousin tell us about a brother, mother and grandfather, the family history, and the losses they have experienced. Some cursing. Newspaper headlines and on-screen words help fill in some of the blanks. It would have been helpful if they had explained exactly what Ian Schrager's connection is/was to the family and the hotel; did he buy it to renovate it, and then sell it back to the family? some un-answered questions here. It felt a little more warm and fuzzy when it was just a family business, and not a commercial enterprise being flipped for profit. Who owns it now? Being shown on Sundance channel during June 2012.
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Interesting but a little too disjointed for yours truly
blanche-25 May 2012
The Gramercy Park Hotel is a New York landmark, one I saw many times. I loved seeing this documentary about its history and the people who stayed there. And though people feel like its shabby, depressed self should stay as it is and not benefit from the Ian Shrager touch, I agree in one sense. There is something amazing about all that history, but on the other hand, it deserves to be renovated to have more life and more history. And Shrager, at least in the documentary, seems to really care about the renovations.

The other interesting part of the story is that of the owners, the Weissbergs, who have suffered a good bit of tragedy in their lives, not to mention the drug addiction of some of the younger generation. This is where it got a little disjointed for me - I would have liked more focus on them, not so much jumping around for person to person. Also the hand-held camera made me a little queasy after a while.

Nevertheless, worth seeing especially if you are interested in this landmark.
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