Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption… before everything goes to hell.
Here is my full review of 20th Century's and Writer/Director Drew Goddard's, BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE.
Drew Goddard has given us a film that is a wonderful noir throwback mixed in with Quentin Tarantino like chapter dividers and a tremendous cast. The heart pounding pacing makes the 2 hour 21 minute run time seem like a blur. His DP Seamus McGarvey captures the unique beauty of the Lake Tahoe wilderness and creates pure fear with the rain soaked haunted nights. Academy-Award Winning Composer Michael Giacchino dives deep into the 60s and 70s to scare, titillate, and to sooth our beating hearts. Overall Bad Times at the El Royale is one of the year's most fascinating films that is pure entertainment at its best. Plot wise I think the above synopsis captures it – 7 strangers, 7 secrets, all set in a rundown hotel from the past.
Is there truth in the film? Well if you do a little research you may come across the legendary Cal Neva Hotel (that ironically Larry Ellison purchased this year!). Like in this film there are connections to the Rat Pack who famously played the Cal Neva. And the secrets at that famous…infamous hotel reaches Hollywood, Chicago's gangster history, the casinos of Vegas/Reno, the aforementioned Rat Pack fellas and even to the White House. There happens to be secret film found in the movie's plot, a buried treasure from a bank heist, and sexual escapades that may force a cringe or an arousal depending on your sensibilities. But the El Royale is simply a tale of those 7 strangers and all the bad shit that happens in the dreaded day and night they spend at this hotel.
I'll reiterate that the cinematography is on point, McGarvey brought back memories of the rain soaked Chicago world of High Fidelity or the similarly rain filled NYC of Godzilla to give us another down pour of epic film history. I'm pretty sure to be a proper Noir you need a bit of rain or at least a distant clatter of thunder to make you jump. But the real fun of the film is the music. Whether from an old school record player or bursting from the lungs of Cynthia Erivo (Darlene Sweet) you are fully emersed into the 1969 setting. Jon Hamm as Laramie Seymour Sullivan (or so he tells us so proudly) owns the beginning the film with his quick-witted salesman pitch to his fellow guests. But quickly each chapter allows you to fall for all of the other characters. Jeff Bridges breathes in every scene with such gusto you hope to always see him at this incredible level. You can tell Jeff most have enjoyed every second of being Father Daniel Flynn (or Dock O'Kelly depending on who you ask). Erivo is a real find from this film and I am grateful it was her unique style rather than the supposed first choice of Beyonce that melts our hearts with her singing. Cailee Spaeny (Ruth Summerspring) also puts a spell on you as her full mystery maybe the film's darkest. Well until you hear the terrible horrors of Lewis Pullman's Miles Miller. And of course you'll love the shotgun welding fast car driving sexiness of Dakota Johnson (Emily Summerspring) unless you are fully taken by smooth moving Chris Hemsworth's diabolical Billy Lee.
The question you need to ask yourself is not whether you will see this film but rather how many times.
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