Out this week in cinemas is the latest project from Drew Goddard. Bad Times at the El Royale is about an ensemble of misfits and monsters. Starring Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and an off-putting Chris Hemsworth Bad Times at the El Royale is a film about the many masks people wear and what lies beneath them.
Bad Times at the El Royale is set in a hotel that is situated at the crossroads of California and Nevada. The hotel is a bi-state establishment which caters for those looking for the glitz and glamour of California or the hope and innocence of Nevada.
It’s an interesting novelty and sets the theme for what happens in the film. Depending on where the characters place themselves you begin to get the idea of where they see themselves in life or how they want to be perceived.
The characters are a collection of misfits and no one is as they seem. There is Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges) a warm old soul who wishes to find peace within the walls of room four. Running to Reno is Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) a songstress who is preparing for a singing gig. She is appropriately named but much like the rest of the residents, there are depths to her that will surprise you.
With them is Seymour “Laramie” Sullivan (Jon Hamm) a vacuum salesman that isn’t particularly nice and rounding out the quartet is Emily (Dakota Johnson) the most mysterious member of the guests at the El Royale.
They are all corralled together by bellboy Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman). This unassuming young man has the unfortunate task of taking care of these individuals during their stay and sadly it will not be an uneventful visit to the El Royale.
Director Drew Goddard has assembled a great cast in Bad Times at the El Royale. Not only that he brings that signature wit audiences may recognise from his work on films like The Cabin in the Woods to the script meaning a lot of the dialogue flows as smooth as the silky sheets of the El Royale. Compounding on top of this is the brilliant performances from each of the cast members. No one is phoning it in here.
A particular favourite of mine is Jeff Bridge’s Father Flynn. He has a fascinating story and I was drawn to seeing how his personal journey would play out through the course of the film. This was in part to the script but was mainly because of the astonishing performance by Bridges.
Not every part of the service that Bad Times at the El Royale offers is five star though. The story though fun is predictable and not particularly original. There are story beats here that you have seen before and with an educated guess some audience members may figure out what’s under the surface long before key mysteries are revealed. Not only that the score of the film is lacking, in my opinion. It relies on the music of the time (the film is set in the 60’s) and though the soundtrack is fun it’s somewhat forgettable.
The most egregious issue is that the film outstays its welcome at 140 minutes. This story could have been told in a tight 1 hour and 45 minutes. Unfortunately, Goddard doesn’t know when to stop with the reveals and the twists and just let the film end. Even with the twisted and brilliant arrival of Chris Hemsworth’s character into the film in the third act, the film had already started to lose steam meaning the impact of his arrival was lessened.
Bad Times at the El Royale is a lot of fun, you’ll be moved by the performances and thrilled by the mysteries. Unfortunately, the length of the film and the sense of familiarity of the premise may sour your stay at the El Royale.