THE ROYAL HOTEL
Starring: Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick, Hugo Weaving, Toby Wallace, Daniel Henshall, James Frecheville, and Ursula Yovich
Director: Kitty Green
Does every narrative beat in The Royal Hotel work? Not necessarily. However, Kitty Green's latest film takes you on a thrill ride that rarely ever lets up. Scenes are tension-filled to an uncomfortable degree from start to finish, all in service of its themes of toxic masculinity and male fragility, anchored by great performances from Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick. The ending left me a little perplexed, if not slightly dissatisfied, but the film's commentaries and approach kept me thinking long after the credits rolled.
The Royal Hotel succeeds mainly due to its commentary on toxic masculinity and predatory culture. This is enhanced by the way director Kitty Green contrasts the present and assumed fears women deal with in male-dominated environments with the consequences (or lack thereof) many men face for their actions. Green particularly excels in showing the varying “levels of evil” of the men Julia Garner's Hanna and Jessica Henwick's Liv cross paths with on their journey. The Royal Hotel may not be the most exhilarating film, but it has a lot to say which deserves to be heard.
Although it has admirable intent and is overall well done, The Royal Hotel is a surface-level exploration of toxic masculinity and the constant threat women must always endure. However, frankly, setting it at a remote bar with zero women near a roughneck mining camp in middle-of-nowhere Australia (a triumvirate of toxic masculinity) undercuts the message a bit. Look, the things that happen to Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) are despicable, but…if an innocent person willfully walks into a lion’s den, pokes the lion, then gets attacked, part of me wonders, “what did you think would happen?” I couldn’t move past that thought while watching.
This film was reviewed by Adriano and Nick as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.