Run Time: 2 hr 21 min
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%/76%
Bad Times at the El Royale is a Crime/Thriller/Mystery starring Jeff Bridges (Father Flynn), Cynthia Erivo (Darlene Sweet), Dakota Johnson (Emily Summerspring), Jon Hamm (Laramie Seymour Sullivan), Lewis Pullman (Miles Miller), and Chris Hemsworth (Billy Lee) in a film that keeps you wondering is everyone who they say they are or is there more than meets the eye?
This film is set in 1968 and takes place at the eerie El Royale, which is a hotel located right on the border of California and Nevada; it was once a huge popular attraction but over the years has become nothing more than a rundown roadside attraction with a dark history. Each of our characters are all at the El Royale for more reasons than just needing an overnight stay. Father Flynn has come back to the El Royale to retrieve something left for him years before, Emily Summerspring has brought with her an unexpected guest that turns the hotel upside down, Laramie Sullivan is a vacuum salesman with more on his agenda than just meeting sales goals, and Darlene Sweet is an inspiring singer that just wants to practice for an upcoming gig. This film had a lot going on but was this film truly a “bad time” or was it a pleasant surprise?
The overall premise of the film was very good. I like when films dedicate a small portion of the film to each character to show how certain things playout from their point of view. One movie in particular that did this extremely well was Four Rooms (1995), which this filmed reminded me a lot of. Bad Times at the El Royale was refreshing because the director made some unconventional choices that really worked for me. For example, there is a scene where Darlene is singing in her room oblivious to the craziness happening around her and her singing is used to create tension and suspense but also connects the audience to Darlene. It’s the subtleties like this that made this movie somewhat enjoyable.
Cynthia Erivo’s performance was the best in my opinion. She gave us a performance full of strength, vulnerability, and soul; she definitely found a new fan in me. Throughout the film I felt so bad for her character because she only wanted to sing but was drug into a mess that may or may not have cost her everything. Darlene as a stand alone character would have been boring but when put in this dangerous environment; the complexity of her character just stood out.
This film, while unique on some level, was all over the place. I love an anthology that brings a central theme together but this attempt was a fail. We get the backstory of all our characters to understand their motivation for coming to the El Royale but it didn’t add any depth to the characters (other than Darlene). Because of this I really didn’t care what happened to these characters (except Darlene) which is not something you should feel when watching a film. There were attempts to make us feel empathy for some of the characters but those attempts did not work and I just really saw these characters as really flat and one note. ****Honorable Mention……..They made this big fuss about the hotel being located on the border of California and Nevada but that was the most pointless aspect of this film. ******
Chris Hemsworth’s character was such a disappointment. In the trailer he seems to be our main antagonist but he does not even appear until the third act. And once he does come on screen we find that he is some sort of cult leader that has a questionable relationship with a young girl. The introduction of his character was underwhelming and while there was one moment where he gave me sinister, the rest of the time I just got drunk hippie.
I was so excited to see this film but unfortunately it did not deliver for me. The character development was shallow at best, the script was kind of all over the place, and the “twist” at the end just seemed forced. This Sista Gurl recommends you skip this one and check out a classic ,Four Rooms (1995), that did the anthology thing much better and is far more entertaining.