The Royal Hotel
Stars: Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick, Hugo Weaving, Toby Wallace, Daniel Henshall, James Frecheville
Australian director-co-writer Kitty Green’s follow-up to her deeply unsettling me-too drama ‘The Assistant’ is a well-acted and nuanced study of sexual politics, but ultimately feels less than the sum of its parts.
Garner (who also starred in ‘The Assistant’) and Henwick are Hanna and Liv, American backpackers who have ran out of money while travelling around Australia. Desperate to find work they have to take the only jobs the agency has: working behind the bar in a remote mining town with accommodation thrown in.
Arriving at ‘The Royal Hotel’ pub, they are shown the ropes by Hugo Weaving’s gruff, semi-alcoholic manager Billy. The young women’s presence is met with dirty jokes, leering come-ons and invitations to ‘smile’. Liv is fairly sanguine about their situation, but Hanna is much more uncomfortable. Nevertheless, Hanna warms to good-looking local boy Matty (Wallace) while Liv attracts the attention of towering misfit miner Teeth (Frecheville).
Green’s script, co-written with Oscar Redding, is very good at illustrating how the supposedly harmless blokey banter can disorientate and be just plain wearying for the female protagonists, although refreshingly Hanna and Liv are no pushovers. There is also a very effective and economic demonstration of inherent racist attitudes in a brief sequence with an Aboriginal delivery man.
Michael Latham’s photography nicely contrasts the fusty pub environs with the stark brightness of the exteriors, while Garner and Henwick generate a convincing old friends dynamic.
The picture runs out of steam midway however, just when audiences might have been anticipating a leap into something more lurid or hallucinatory a la 1971 picture ‘Wake in Fright’, another depiction of Australian masculinity run rampant. Consequently, the final shot and closing line of dialogue feel weirdly incongruous.
The Royal Hotel is released on 3rd November
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