Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale ★★★★

The technical prowess services the script—it isn't the other way around. The central allegory (which I won't spoil) will show itself at different points from viewer to viewer, but even its more obvious moments gleam a deeper intent. Goddard doesn't use nostalgia for nothing. He uses it skillfully, positioning traditional Americana as a surface-level reflection of characters' beliefs, which in turn act as an microcosm of traditional Western philosophy.

There's a theological bent to Bad Times at the El Royale that complements the Japanese cinema of the '50s and '60s: some are overt like the inevitable Roshomon comparisons, but some are quieter, like how Goddard and McGarvey shoot dialogue scenes à la Yasujirō Ozu. Furthermore, some inspirations are more esoteric and Sisyphean, almost like an American take on Woman in the Dunes. The film overflows with touches that snake in on themselves not only in their own rights, but also in broader theo/cultural ways. Add to the fact that it's just plain entertaining and it becomes one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.

Full review on FilmMonthly.

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