Monday, October 2, 2023
HomeNewsWelcome to the scariest bar on earth

Welcome to the scariest bar on earth

Hollywood, by and large, portrays bars as the most fun and chummy places on earth. At “Cheers” and “Coyote Ugly,” everybody knows your name and you can grow into a better person by sexy dancing.

Even Moe’s Tavern from “The Simpsons,” with all its seasoned boozehounds, has a base level of respectability and camaraderie. 

However, I suspect most bartenders will relate more to director Kitty Green’s paralyzing movie “The Royal Hotel,” which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.

movie review

Running time: 91 minutes. Not yet rated.

It’s a chillingly spot-on depiction of how, in dank rooms filled with belligerent drunks, the line between a jolly time and a dangerous one is treacherously thin. 

The risks are doubled by the film’s setting of rural Australia — not known for its open arms or adherence to etiquette — and that our two rookie drink servers are newly arrived young women from the United States.

Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) are tourists on working holiday visas, which allow foreigners under 35 to stay in Oz for 12 months while hopping around jobs to fund their trip. When Hanna’s credit card is denied at a club in Sydney, the pair realizes they need a new gig pronto, and are assigned to the faraway Royal Hotel.

Some six hours out of town, the Royal is the only major business in the desolate area and is owned by a crude alcoholic named Billy (Hugo Weaving) and his up-to-here-with-him wife Carol (Ursula Yovich). 

Billy believes the customer is always right, even when they’re violently flipping over chairs or making gross moves on his employees.

“Royal Hotel” star Julia Garner is best-known for playing Anna Delvey in “Inventing Anna” and Ruth on “Ozark.”
AFP via Getty Images

Funny that Weaving is in this movie, because it harkens back to his 1994 comedy “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” in which three drag queens wound up in a similarly macho, unwelcoming Australian dive. “The Royal Hotel,” though, is not so uplifting in the end.

Disgusted by the shabby business with dead snakes in glass jars behind the counter and predatory regulars, Liv and Hanna nonetheless stick it out. They meet a guy, Matty (Toby Wallace), who has a boyish smile and is kinder than the weathered, foul-mouthed slobs that get plastered there every night. He takes them swimming at a waterfall a few hours away.

This is where Green’s tremendous ability as a writer and director reveals itself. She lulls us gullible chumps into a false sense of security over and over again. Just when the viewers think we’ve found a glimmer of hope or met a hero — male or female — it turns out they’re no better than anybody else. There is no oasis in this vision of the Aussie desert. 

Kitty Green
Director Kitty Green arrives at the Canadian premiere of “The Royal Hotel” at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Getty Images

The director (whose “The Assistant” was solid, but this is far better) has built a gripping thriller around the sort of off-hand remarks, boozy outbursts and inappropriate behavior that most bartenders and reasonable patrons encounter all the time. Everywhere. A chalkboard outside the Royal that says “Fresh Meat” on the day Hanna and Liv arrive is a stupid joke that snowballs into a grave threat.

Garner brings the same no-BS energy to Hanna that she brought to Anna Delvey on “Inventing Anna” and Ruth on “Ozark,” except Hanna loses control over the situation and begins to crumble. She wisely wants to flee the scene but Henwick’s contrastingly free-spirited Liv, looking for adventure, ardently wants to stay. Bad idea!

Like in any horror movie, we silently shout “get outta there!” and “don’t go with him!” What is so scary about it this time is that there’s not a slasher hiding in the closet — he’s just a normal drunk sitting on a barstool.

source link



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments