Playing with boxes, defined colors, and stereotypes, ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ deconstructs our expectations of the 1960s, unveiling the reality behind them. Writer and director Drew Goddard, delivers a movie that manages to make poignant observation, without ever losing its stylish appeal.
This film plays with simple archetypes, without disregarding the deeper social ramifications that these represent. An example of this is the setting: the hotel appears highly inviting to the viewer, with bright colours that create that long gone ‘good old times’ feel. Yet this charming façade hides a much darker story. This is reflective of how we often think of the 1960s: we tend to forget about the struggles, and romanticize the era as a whole. But by doing this, we also take away a lot of the humanity of it: it is when the movie starts to break down the stereotypes, that the audience is allowed to make an emotional connection to the characters, and the sins they represent. In fact, what defines humanity better than reflection upon our mistakes?
The revelations, allegories and symbols that enrich the movie invite a second viewing.
The ensemble delivers fun, yet complex performances, which truly deepens my appreciations for all the actors involved, with special regard for Lewis Pullman. At the heart of the story however, are Darleen and Father Flynn, who not only are the most interesting characters, but also manage to remain relatable even through these over-the-top events. In particular, Cynthia Erivo warms this movie with the strong, yet comforting presence of her character. Darleen guides the viewer through the sins the characters represent by acting as a moral compass.
The brilliance of these characters lays not only in these actors: the screenplay and the direction are able to deliver exciting plot twists and a highly stylized environments, without losing any of the depth in the meantime. It is not a coincidence that the protagonists are seven: every character poses a reflection on defining features of the 1960s. Be it cults, war or alcoholism, this movie not only recognizes these aspects, but analyzes them, filling the viewer with questions. There are so many outstanding choices, made in both style and story, which will keep the viewer stunned until the end. The revelations, allegories, and symbols that enrich the movie invite a second viewing of those who truly wish to appreciate it.
Rating: 5/5 stars