Bad Times at the El Royale
Writer-Director Drew Goddard, in hiding as far as feature directing goes since his 2012 The Cabin in the Woods, assembles an all-star cast for one nutty, and sometimes a little too cute for its own good, movie. The star of this movie is the El Royale, a fictional hotel based on the actual Cal Neva hotel, once owned by Frank Sinatra, in Lake Tahoe. It’s a solid piece of art direction, for sure, from its aged lobby straddling two states, to its creepy tunnels behind the rooms set up for criminal voyeurs. Jeff Bridges plays a mysterious priest who checks into the resort along with a singer (Cynthia Erivo), a vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm) and a hippie (Dakota Johnson). After the messed up manager (Lewis Pullman) checks them in, each visitor has their own story in their own rooms. Goddard has flourishes of brilliance here, mixing thrills, mystery, humor and lots of blood into the intertwined plots, giving the film a Tarantino-like feel. (I know that’s a cliché these days, but it’s true.) The film is set in 1969, paying homage to the time through its soundtrack, set design and subplot involving a Manson-like cult leader (Chris Hemsworth). At nearly two-and-a-half hours, it’s a little bit much; a half hour could easily be excised from the film. Still, the stuff that works makes it a worthwhile movie.