Bad Times at the El Royale is a product that believes it’s smarter than it really is with an exceptional cast that has to work with a below average script.
The movie follows a group of strangers who all stay at the El Royale hotel and follow events… the description for this film can’t really be given more than that without major plot points being given away.
BTER isn’t a bad film and does hold a good amount of merits that deserve to be addressed. Every actor/actress in the film gives it everything they can, with their talent shining through, yet the only exceptional performance is by Chris Hemsworth. He only shows up in the third act, though it’s apparent he’s having a ball with his role and it steals the show from everyone involved.
And the idea of the setting is very interesting. The concept of a hotel on the border of two states holds so many different ideas and a lot of intrigue, given the fact that the hotel is based off a real place, the Cal Neva.
Though, unfortunately, that’s where the positives leave and where the meat of the film is shown to be rotting. With the directing, it attempts to do way too much and none of it is clever, yet it’s shot as though it should be. Clever scenes are scenes that hold depth or hold multiple dimensions, yet are presented in a way that gives all layers justification. Here, it loses intelligence when it forces an audience member to imagine more dimensions in order to understand the plot.
When people know instantly that there is more than meets the eye is when the scene is no longer smart. Now, that can be disguised if the dialogue is interesting enough and the characters can be empathized with naturally. Though, in BTER, there were many times where the dialogue leaves a viewer feeling empty, bored or both.
It also has a great sense of monotony. The film has many different flashbacks where it gives a different viewpoint of a different character. When done well, it can show different meanings for different perspectives. When done in this film, it simply has the audience sit through the exact same scene, just filmed from a different angle. The film doesn’t give any interest or different understanding of the same perspective either, it just shows someone watching the exact same scene but only this time it’s in the rain.
BTER isn’t the worst film ever made and it definitely has great parts. However, it continuously gets in a viewer’s face, forcing the sense that it’s smart in their mind. What separates a great film from a bad one isn’t always how bad it’s produced, but instead if the film has a theme that can be demonstrated naturally. And BTER doesn’t do that, it forces it, which has the side effect of rejection from a general audience due to them feeling stuck rather than letting them understand it by themselves.