The Royal Hotel is a tense look at what happens when two young women find themselves tending bar near a mining depot out in the Australian desert. With both a look at how alcohol can affect the patrons as well as the workers, The Royal Hotel is a cautionary tale in just about every way as it pertains to working a bar and the kind of trouble people get in when they’ve gone too far. As a bartender myself, I’ve seen firsthand how quickly things can get out of hand and how unexpectedly people can turn a situation hostile with only a small amount of alcohol. It can get scary fast, and I can only imagine how much more terrifying a bunch of drunk crazy men are to a woman who’s bartending.
After running out of money while partying it up in Sydney, Australia for the summer, American backpackers Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) find themselves needing to find another job before they can party some more. Taking on a gig working at a remote pub near a mining depot, the two girls find themselves immediately immersed in a world full of drunk workers. Having to tend to rowdy and creepy patrons each evening, the girls do what’s necessary to survive their time and make their money.
From the moment the travel coordinator mentions that the girls will have to get used to a larger male presence out at the mines I had a bad feeling in my gut. Every step of the film is followed by this ominous feeling as to what may happen during the girls stay at this pub. They sleep upstairs and keep the pub locked up at night, but that’s still not enough to deter the drunk and creepy men who only ever see women when they’re at the pub. The Royal Hotel plays with suspense so well, crafting moments that leave you uneasy and uncertain of people’s intentions.
The Royal Hotel reaffirmed everything I’ve thought and feared about what running a bar is like and is a perfect example of how quickly things can get out of hand. Garner and Henwick are both terrific in their own rights, playing two friends who party differently and look at situations differently, leading to all sorts of chaos for their friendship. I felt incredibly tense the whole film as I was trying to uncover who was good and who wasn’t, not realizing that the film was also playing tricks on the audience and our expectations. While not quite a total thriller, this latest from Neon makes for a great watch and good discussion after!
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