Bad Times at the El Royale

The Week (US) - - Arts 23 -

Di­rected by Drew God­dard

“Aim­ing for style over sub­stance is only a prob­lem when you miss,” said Matthew Mona­gle in The Austin Chron­i­cle. That’s why it’s easy to for­give the de­riv­a­tive el­e­ments in this “ab­so­lutely gor­geous” pe­riod noir thriller. When seven strangers with seven se­crets check into a fad­ing ho­tel on the Ne­vada-Cal­i­for­nia bor­der for a sin­gle night in 1969, you know all sto­ry­lines will even­tu­ally con­verge, then start twist­ing. But it’s still fun to watch as Jon Hamm’s vac­uum sales­man, Jeff Bridges’ griz­zled priest, Dakota John­son’s femme fa­tale, and the other A-list guests re­veal their true selves. “At its best, El Royale is wickedly

sus­pense­ful,” said Kyle Smith in Na­tional Re­view. But many of its iso­lated se­quences are greater than the whole, which “turns out to be a pretty fa­mil­iar chasea-bag-of-money story.” Ex­cept that the sur­face story mat­ters less than its al­le­gor­i­cal res­o­nances, said Alissa Wilkin­son in The El Royale is clearly pur­ga­tory, “an ex­is­ten­tial cross­roads” for seven char­ac­ters headed ei­ther to­ward sal­va­tion or damna­tion. Given the movie’s wide-rang­ing am­bi­tions, “it’s prob­a­bly in­evitable that some of it just doesn’t work.” Still, “even when it stum­bles,” El Royale “feels like a deeply weird and won­drous ac­com­plish­ment.”

Bridges with co-star Cyn­thia Erivo

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