Somehow, I’ve got nothing. Something about some MCU veterans with the Fifty Shades girl jokes should be made, but nothing’s coming to mind.
The story looks like… actually, it’s not entirely clear from the trailer I watched. All I’m getting is that a bunch of shady folks have met up at a hotel to be shady people to.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jeff Bridges (ONLY THE BRAVE , HELL OR HIGH WATER , IRON MAN , and THE BIG LEBOWSKI ), Cynthia Erivo (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and upcoming films WIDOWS  and CHAOS WALKING ), Jon Hamm (TAG , BABY DRIVER , KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES , MINIONS , and upcoming films THE TORTURE REPORT  and TOP GUN: MAVERICK ), Dakota Johnson (FIFTY SHADES FREED , DARKER , HOW TO BE SINGLE , BLACK MASS , and upcoming films SUSPERIA  and THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON ), and Chris Hemsworth (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR , THOR , THE DARK WORLD , and RAGNAROK , HUNTSMAN 2 , IN THE HEART OF THE SEA , CABIN IN THE WOODS , and upcoming films Avengers 4  and the new Men In Black movie ).
In support, we have Nick Offerman (HEARTS BEAT LOUD , MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI , SING , HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 , THE LEGO MOVIE , and upcoming films THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART ), Manny Jacinto (THE GOOD PLACE [2016 – ongoing], and the upcoming TOP GUN: MAVERICK), Charles Halford (LOGAN LUCKY  and video game RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER ), Cailee Spaeny (PACIFIC RIM 2 , and upcoming films ON THE BASIS OF SEX  and THE SHOES ), and Lewis Pullman (LEAN ON PETE , BATTLE OF THE SEXES , and upcoming films THEM THAT FOLLOW  and TOP GUN: MAVERICK).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Drew Goddard, known for CABIN IN THE WOODS, and for writing THE MARTIAN (2015). Composing the score is the ever-amazing Michael Giacchino, known for INCREDIBLES 2 (2018), WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017), ZOOTOPIA (2016), INSIDE OUT (2015), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III (2006) and GHOST PROTOCOL (2011). The cinematographer is Seamus McGarvey, known for GREATEST SHOWMAN (2017), NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (2016), GODZILLA (2014), and THE AVENGERS (2012). Finally, the editor is Lisa Lassek, known for 12 STRONG (2018), THE CIRCLE (2017), AVENGERS, and AVENGERS: ULTRON (2015).
This is my honest opinion of: BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
Set on the border of California and Nevada, circa 1976. The story follows a group of strangers, the elderly Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the talented singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), the ill-tempered Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), and fast-talking salesman Laramie Sullivan (Jon Hamm), all with their own share of secrets, and all under the care of the young and troubled single caretaker of the El Royale hotel, Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman).
I’m… honestly still kind of rattling this around in my head a little. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I’ll figure it out as I write. As I sit… it’s not bad, but it’s sort of… blah.
Definitely one of the elements that were a tad off-putting was how perspectives were shifted. I feel like this is one of the reasons why the movie was as long as it was (2 hours and 21 mins), and it didn’t always seem like it was necessary. I feel like it could have been told chronologically and the movie would have progressed just fine. Maybe I’m wrong, but that constant bouncing around was… not annoying, but noticeably jarring.
Now that I’m thinking about it, one of the things that I was expecting to see was how these diverse personalities would work off of each other, but it doesn’t quite pan out the way that I expected. Very similar to my feelings on HOTEL ARTEMIS, there’s not enough of that back and forth between these characters. Sure, they’re fine in their own right, but not to each other. But that’s obviously what I wanted to be, rather than what’s actually done with their own ideas.
But I can’t deny what this movie does really great, so lets definitely tackle that shit.
The set-up for this movie is actually quite brilliant. You have Nick Offerman efficiently hiding a bag full of money in the floors of a hotel. Then ten years later, you have a bunch of people show up at the same time at this hotel that doesn’t seem to have had any decent business lately, and you’re assuming that they’re all after the same thing. My money was that Johnson was playing Offerman’s daughter, and everyone was somehow related, not by family, but by circumstance. That sort of thing. Thankfully, this movie plays with every single one of your expectations and keeps you smack-dabbed in the middle of the dark. Very little, if any, of this movie is predictable.
The actors are all really good too. I think one of the more surprising stand-out performances comes out of Pullman. I swear, he looks like Tom Holland. What I love about his character is how subtly stressed out Miles is. Management is never around and he is literally the only person who can tend the hotel. There’s not even so much as a cleaning maid, and yet he’s still expected to give a quick orientation about the services that the El Royale provides. He’s also treated with very little respect from the other patrons, like both Emily and Sullivan. To make matters worse, it’s all of the shady and despicable things his managers make him do on their behalf. To top it all off, he’s a drug abuser, and it’s not hard to see why. As the story progresses, the poor guy just gets the short end of the stick and you feel so bad for him. Honestly, I might even say that he deserves an Oscar nom for his role, I thought he was that good.
And let’s face it, Hemsworth delivers one of his most entertaining performances of his career. That’s saying something, considering that he’s usually pretty fun in everything that he does as is. He plays Billy Lee, the leader of a sexual and violence-based cult and he’s fantastic as this creepy and sadistic asshole, and I feel like he plays him up not like he actually believes in what he’s saying to get everyone to believe him, but rather saying what he knows will manipulate people into believing what he’s saying. You know what I mean? He’s a guy that’s working the human condition, rather than being part of the human condition. I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one who believes that about him, but either way, it’s a fantastic show that Hemsworth puts on.
Father Flynn is a nice dude who has a memory problem that weighs heavily on him. Even when he gets knocked out by Darlene, he doesn’t hold it against her. He apologizes, calmly explains his situation, and basically promises half of the money in the bag that his brother hid in her room. Sometimes, you just have to tilt your hat to a character that knows why bad things happen to him and doesn’t complain.
Um… Erivo can sing. I don’t know who this woman is, as I’m pretty sure this is her feature film debut, but this woman’s got a set of lungs on her. She’s got a magnificent voice and seriously needs a role to showcase that. But more than that, she’s actually a really good actress, playing Darlene, who is caught up in so much craziness and is just trying to get through the night alive. All she wants to do is sing in Rio and this night is threatening to ruin that dream.
Speaking of Darlene, why was she so uncomfortable around Father Flynn? Not later on when they were having drinks, but when they first arrive at the Royale. Consider, they both arrive, talk a bit, he offers to help with her bags, she thanks him, they go into the hotel, and then… she gets crazy paranoid around him. What the hell did I miss?! And don’t give me no, “She says that she can tell when someone’s conning her” because that only makes sense in the scene where they’re drinking in the lobby. He’s constantly trying to pressure her into drinking with him. I think any woman that’s been around the block a few times would have gotten that vibe from him.
Overall, I suppose it’s fair to say that I like this movie more than I don’t, and I have to give credit for what great it does. There’s legit suspense, it’s unpredictable, and some truly great acting. I can’t say that I agreed with every choice the movie makes, so I can’t call this a great film, but I can call it a good one. As a recommendation, if you can stomach the long runtime, then I think you’re in a good spot. I don’t think there’s any need to rush out to see it, but it might be worth checking out.
My honest rating for BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE: 4/5
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