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The Royal Hotel

The Royal Hotel
A tough to watch, yet recommended, film about toxic masculinity and sexual harassment at a rural Australian bar.

The Royal Hotel

Release Date: October 6, 2023
Runtime: 01:31
Synopsis:
US backpackers Hanna and Liv take a job in a remote Australian pub for some extra cash and are confronted with a bunch of unruly locals and a situation that grows rapidly out of their control.

Two US backpackers take a job at a bar in the Australian outback with a very unruly male clientele in . Hanna () and Liv () are two Americans backpacking in Australia, who are forced to take a job placement when they run out of money. The two are assigned to The Royal Hotel, a seedy bar in a mining community in the Australian outback run by Billy () and Carol (). Hanna and Liv are immediately taken aback by the rowdy male clientele, who aren't against making casual sexist comments to the new bartenders. While Liv tries to shrug off this behaviour, Hanna becomes increasingly concerned about the more aggressive behaviour from the likes of Dolly () and Matty ().

The Royal Hotel Synopsis

The Royal Hotel is the sophomore feature film from co-writer and director Kitty Green, inspired by the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie. Green is reunited with the star of her 2018 debut, The Assistant, Julia Garder, who is joined by Jessica Henwick (The Matrix Resurrections, Glass Onion) as the backpackers Hanna and Liv, who are American, yet tell everyone they our Canadian, out of the belief they will be treated better. The two take a job at the titular bar, where they deal with daily harassment from the predominantly male clientele, who are barely policed by the alcoholic owner Billy. The tension builds as Hanna becomes increasingly worried about her and Liv's well-being.

My Thoughts on The Royal Hotel

It doesn't take long for The Royal Hotel to establish what it is about, as Hannah and Liv meet the bar's owner Billy when he barges in on them, while about to have a shower, casually calling them the C-word. Then the girls' first night turns out to be a going away party for outgoing British bartenders Jules (Alex Malone) and Cassie (Kate Cheel), who have seemingly become drunken party animals, who dance on the bar and sleep with the clientele, with Liv making a tongue-in-cheek comment to Hannah that they will soon become the same.

Party of the drama of The Royal Hotel is the different reactions that Hannah and Liv have to the toxic male behaviour they experience in the bar. Liv tries to shrug off this behaviour, even partaking in some of the party animal behaviour of the previous bartenders. This only makes Hannah more worried, especially after the regular patron Dolly becomes increasingly aggressive towards her. This all builds to a very tense climax that is quite uncomfortable to watch.

The Royal Hotel also tackles the different forms that male toxicity can take. Apart from the more outwardly sexist characters, such as Dolly and Matty, the film features seemingly nicer male characters such as miner Teeth () and Swedish tourist Torsten (). However, it soon becomes apparent that there is an expectation by the males of this community that the female bartenders are considered fair game and that even the supposed nice guys have ulterior motives.

Then there is the bar's owner Billy, played by a particularly grizzled-looking Hugo Weaving. When Billy is not passed out drunk in his trailer, he is policing the behaviour of his patrons with as minimal effort as possible. Other than his casual use of the C-word, Billy is not a directly sexist individual, though he frequently acts passive-aggressively towards Hannah and Liv, often asking that they smile more, accusing them of driving away customers. Much more sympathetic to the girls is Billy's partner Carol, played by Ursula Yovich (Australia), who herself has become fed up with the toxic culture inside the bar.

The Royal Hotel ends up being an interesting companion to Kitty Green's previous film The Assistant, as they both deal with male toxicity in different environments. Arguably The Royal Hotel is a bit more of a direct commentary, featuring everything from explicit sexual harassment to apathetic inaction. The end result is a hard-to-watch, yet recommended film.

Trailer for The Royal Hotel

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.