peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 10 27 TheRoyalHotel

The Royal Hotel (2023)

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Kitty Green's latest. I appreciated her #metoo perspective in The Assistant though I feel now as then that investing her characters with excess naivete (and even dumbness) leaves too little room for insight and power.

The opening gambit has two young lady backpackers/holidaymakers/questionably-Canadian escapees (again Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick) on a party boat on Sydney Harbour. Their dancing, drinking and flirting are as awkward and forced as Park Ji-min's wasn't. Running out of money they're told the only job going is serving alcohol in the remote outback, so, of course, they wake in fright at the Royal Hotel in Yatina, South Australia. (Spoiler: here the kangaroo doesn't get it.) This is deeply weird as there is plenty of gig work in Sydney and some of that can be quite adventurous. I expected a reference to the working holiday visa conditions but no.

Suffice it to say that the customers of the pub are almost entirely mine-working men wearing Australia's national dress — hi-viz — so after a rough introduction from housekeeper/cook/wife-/mother-type Ursula Yovich and alkie/publican Hugo Weaving, the latter in hardcore unforgiving oblivious ocker mode, we get down to predatory business. I began to wonder if I was watching that Eastern European torture-porn hotel thing from ages ago that I never saw, the excruciation stemming from the girls presenting as incredibly ignorant and credulous. Was this the 1960s, or at least some time before smartphones and WikiCamps? ... before the Lonely Planet even? Dorky Toby Wallace implausibly plays Kylie Minogue's Locomotion cover on a tape deck (I think) ... so surely it's about 1987 ... but no, Julia Garner has a smartphone. This is as completely implausible as the horror tropes and those Saturday nights without Cold Chisel banging out the national anthem. The most authentic moment, despite it's evident fakery, is the final one when the ladies set it all on fire.

It's such a strange thing for Kitty Green to make a movie about; a shallow critique of her original culture in the form of an unsubtle anti-tourism ad. It's clearly made for Americans given the raised eyebrows at the lack of tips. Everything here has been done better before: more engaging (even authentic) backpacker stories, better-shot outback pub scenes, resourceful and thoughtful ladies. (Julia Garner is not in the running to be the next Ripley despite the mean way she wields an axe.) Michael Latham's cinematography is nothing special, especially when set against Warrick Thornton's or Ivan Sen's. (Sen moreover has the guts to go right over the top.) Perhaps this is Green saying that the country is not worthy of anything better. I appreciate and respect Hugo's one-actor attempt to revive the Australian movie sector but it's beyond him. It's probably beyond everyone.

Jeannette Catsoulis made it a critic's pick despite finding it exhausting. Oh the dei ex machina: saved by a sober man at sunrise on a Sunday! — which has never happened in Australia. Inspired by Hotel Coolgardie. Benjamin Lee. Sorry mate, it's really not much. A bit later, Peter Bradshaw and Wendy Ide. She dug it, he didn't. Much later, Jason Di Rosso interviewed Kitty Green for The Screen Show. Despite expending heroic effort in discerning the novelties he did not recommend it. Jake Wilson: the same old story.