THE ROYAL HOTEL. A Feminist Vacation Thriller in the Australian Outback [REVIEW]

“The Royal Hotel” is a successful and terrifying film, a complex depiction of the aggression women face daily worldwide.

Michalina Peruga

24 June 2024

the royal hotel

Australian director Kitty Green returns with “The Royal Hotel,” her new film that combines an atmospheric thriller with a strongly feminist revenge narrative, starring Julia Garner (Ozark, Inventing Anna) in the lead role. 

Kitty Green impressed me with her two previous films. First, with “Casting JonBenét” (2017), a documentary with an interesting form that tells the story of the famous American criminal case, the 1996 murder of a young beauty pageant contestant in her own home. Then, with her first feature film, “The Assistant.” Inspired by the Weinstein scandal, Green created a disturbing and claustrophobic story about systemic sexism and harassment in the film industry, centered on a young assistant working in a Hollywood production company.

In her latest production, “The Royal Hotel,” Kitty Green revisits the themes explored in her first film but sets them in a completely different environment. Once again, she casts the excellent Julia Garner in the lead role, accompanied on screen by Jessica Henwick (The Matrix Resurrections, Game of Thrones). The actresses play friends, Hanna and Liv, who backpack through Australia during a hot summer. After an intense party in Sydney leaves them short on cash, they decide to work in a hotel in the remote outback. At the Royal Hotel, they are supposed to work behind the bar. When they arrive, they are struck by the isolation of this mining town, where the hotel bar is the only place for locals to gather. The majority of the patrons are men who come in daily for a beer (or a few), subjecting the young, attractive newcomers to sexist jokes and unwanted sexual advances.

the royal hotel

Green reworks the well-known film trope of vacation terror in her own way, once again painting a portrait of a claustrophobic environment where the constant sense of threat to the characters’ safety never dissipates. Hanna (Garner) and Liv (Henwick) must learn to navigate their new reality, where local men hold all the power. They adopt different strategies. Liv plays along in this uneven game—trying to be friendly to the male customers to avoid aggression or unpleasant situations. I am sure most women know exactly what I mean here—it is one of our survival techniques. “Smile,” Hanna constantly hears, words that have become a symbol of entitlement, the belief that women exist solely for men’s visual pleasure.

Kitty Green masterfully depicts these sexual microaggressions faced by the girls, painting a perfect portrait of what it means to be a woman in a masculinized, toxic environment. The situations Hanna and Liv find themselves in will be familiar to every woman. The director once again proves her talent for creating claustrophobic scenarios where the protagonist is continuously threatened.

Green slowly builds tension, keeping us on edge as we wait for the culmination of the film’s growing aggression. The sense of uncertainty and fear creeps under our skin, allowing us to empathize with the protagonists. “The Royal Hotel” is an excellent thriller that flirts a bit with the rape and revenge genre without ever crossing into the more brutal territory of exploitation cinema. Although Green’s film starts off intensely and promisingly, it loses some momentum over time and lacks a final touch. Despite this, “The Royal Hotel” is a successful and terrifying film, a complex depiction of the aggression women face daily worldwide. Kitty Green has once again confirmed that she is an excellent observer and director whose creative endeavors are worth following.

Michalina Peruga

Michalina Peruga

Film scholar, art historian and lover of contemporary horror cinema and classic Hollywood cinema, especially film noir and the work of Alfred Hitchcock. In cinema, she loves mixing genres, breaking patterns and looking closely at characters.

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