After running out of money while backpacking in a tiny, male-dominated town in the Australian outback, two friends resort to a working holiday at the Royal Hotel. When the locals behavior starts crossing the line, the girls find themselves trapped in an unnerving situation that grows rapidly out of their control.
Cambridge Film Festival 2023: Film #8
After the subtlety of Kitty Green's The Assistant (2019), this quasi-suspense thriller just felt more than a bit obvious. The Royal Hotel's claim that drunk men can be bastards is not exactly news to this viewer, and combined with the film's by-the-numbers modern approach towards casual racism towards indigenous Australians, it meant that the film's pseudo-catharsis in the final act didn't feel entirely earned. There's also something about the "attractive white American woman discovers that the world is full of scary things" genre that discomforts me, and the fact that the usual country (Mexico or "Eastern Europe") has been replaced with a hard-drinking Crocodile Dundee and/or stereotypical version of Australia doesn't make it any less exploitative.
The Royal Hotel is a less subtle work than The Assistant. Partly the difference is one of scale — the sheer numbers of men here are overwhelming — and a shift from social to physical power.
— Catherine Wheatley (The Royal Hotel)