I saw Bad Times at the El Royale late Thursday night and I’m still not quite sure how to describe the insane rollercoaster ride I went on. One thing is abundantly clear though, I absolutely loved every single minute of it. The cast, the setting, the cinematography, all of it. I laughed, I cried, I was nervous, I was never sure what twist would come next and the director and writer, Drew Goddard has delivered something incredibly fun.
Bad Times takes place in 1969 at the El Royale, a hotel right on the Nevada and California state line that is renowned for it’s parties and general debauchery .While it’s lost a bit of its luster, the El Royale brings together seven complete strangers each with different secrets and reasons that bring them to the infamous establishment. A priest from Bloomington, Indiana (Eww gross) Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges) checks in and crosses paths with a singer, Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), a vacuum salesman, Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), and finally a foul mouthed hippee named Emily (Dakota Johnson). As soon as each stranger checks in the mystery’s of the hotel and each respective stranger are explored and uncovered through a series of twist and turns that show what’s really going on at the El Royale.
From top to bottom this is one of the most impressive casts that I’ve seen in a movie all year ( not counting Infinity War, because that’s not fair.). Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, and Cynthia Ervio, are all superstars in their own right and everyone gives it their all. The standout is the always wonderful Jeff Bridges who delivers some truly heartbreaking moments, as well as his traditional charm and wit. Going into this movie I wasn’t expecting to tear up at all but damn, “The Dude” brought a tear to my eye. Bridges and Ervio have a lot of great scenes together and their chemistry throughout really make the film work. Ervio is already a well known stage actor whose portrayal of Celie in The Color Purple won her a Tony in 2016 and I actually got the chance to see her before it closed.It was honestly one of the greatest performances I’ve seen in my life and I couldn’t be happier that a general audience will be seeing more of her. She brings that same energy I saw in 2016 to this film and she really, really knocks it out of the park.
You can have the most talented and star studded cast in the world but it doesn’t make a difference unless you have great writing and a compelling story to tell, and thankfully Goddard does. Admittedly it does start a little slow and can be a bit confusing at times, but when it gets going, man is it fun. Goddard is effortlessly able to bend and weave through different genres and always leave you on your toes. The story will often go back and forth in time to give some more perspective to the story and show what each person was doing at a specific pivotal moment and leads to a lot of A-HA moments.
First and foremost El Royale is a thriller, one that builds and builds, slowly pulling away the layers that finally give you the bigger picture. Along the way we get sprinkles of comedy, some action, and even a little bit of horror. It all pays off for a fun and heart-pounding final act that make sense of the sometimes convoluted plot.
Apart from the plot, El Royale is a wonderfully shot film. The scenery is bold and does a great job of selling the late 60’s aesthetic. It makes the El Royale itself a character that has different sides and gives the hotel it’s own personality that shines throughout.
As much as I really enjoyed El Royale, I can fully admit that it has one glaring problem, and I’ve alluded to it throughout. It can be really convoluted at times, and unnecessarily so. It’s a bit of a detriment to the plot at the beginning and as I said earlier, it’s a very slow start. One that I think people will point to as a glaring issue after seeing this movie.
Bad Times at the El Royale is a really fun thriller that has a vibe that’s all it’s own. The fantastic cast play their parts very well and really help the film succeed. Drew Goddard keeps the audience on their toes throughout the entire story and builds to an incredibly satisfying end. Not a bad time at all.
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