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Bad Times at the El Royale review

Posted by admin on October 22, 2018


In the age of 2018, many movies that promote nostalgia love to go back to the 1980's. It makes sense as the millennial generation are now in between their twenties and thirties, not to mention have their own families and try to expose what them happy as children, hoping that same joy will get the same reaction for their offspring. While I myself love material from the eighties, I don't consider myself raised by that era. I'll bet that there is a bigger crowd nostalgic for times they never lived through. I think we all dream of worlds we've never been to, and different time periods might as well be new worlds.

In the case for Bad Times at the El Royale, not only does it remind me how different the world was from the sixties and seventies, but I realize that director Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods) has a lot of passion for the style within that era. In fact, the story seems to be about nostalgia from different angles. The hotel itself is from another era, several characters from other eras, and even the music represents a joy from a different era. It honestly all comes together in which only Bad Times at the El Royale could have. 

In 1970 near Lake Tahoe, several people stop at the El Royale motel. This place is famous for being in-between California and Nevada, giving people the option to stay in either side. It was also once a big hangout, but has fallen on hard times. Regardless, the people checking in include a traveling salesman Sullivan (played by Jon Hamm), a backup singer who dreams of going solo Darlene Sweet (played by Cynthia Erivo), catholic priest Daniel Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges) and a flower power hippie Emily (played by Dakota Johnson).

All three go to their assigned rooms and the rest of the movie each focuses from their perspective. They all see that the hotel is a cool piece of nostalgia, but they also know that something odd is going on. They can't put their finger on it, but they go about their business. Things get crazier then a storm forces them to stay put and people seem to have their own motives, despite everyone saying their going to Reno. Things get crazier when they receive a visit from a Charles Mansion-like cult leader Billy Lee (played by Chris Hemsworth).

What I love about this movie is that it understands what makes for a great story; great characters and their relationships. Drew Goddard has an eye for casting, because everyone here is great. I can't go into too much detail without spoiling it, but let's say that everyone of them has secrets and each of those secrets reacts to the other secrets before everything gets out of control. If I did have to pick my favorites, that goes to three; Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo and Chris Hemsworth. Again, I can't give it away, but the stories showcase why their all good actors. 

Bad Times at the El Royale takes a lot of the same tone and pacing from Tarantino. Goddard want to recreate the same feeling of character interaction and the more anarchic and random style of storytelling where actions have consequences and yet still come out like a orchestrated story.  If there was something to separate this from other Tarantino films is this this seems more inclined to stick to a plot. Even when things turn, it still feels like were going forth from the same story that was started from.

The movie is defiantly a long sit. Running at nearly two and a half hours, it does unfortunately suffer from pacing that can come off as too slow. It could have used maybe a ten-minute cut, but I was never board. It came close, but I was kept engaged through the majority of the movie. It just happens that the characters are so full and rich, that you could have made a side movie about each one and probably have been satisfied with all of them. It also helps that their all played by great actors.

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I'll give this four and a half motel keys out of five. This is definitely going on my best of 2018 list of movies. Like a great nostalgia trip, I felt like I got transported to a new world that was real, but I could never visit. Bad Times at the El Royale is something that might be a bit long for some, but give it a chance and I think you'll be just as engaged as I was. Grab the key, watch the movie and enjoy the stay.