There’s a really good movie in theaters right now, at least in a few theaters. It is streaming on Prime as of October 24. You have your support in two sentences.
In “The Royal Hotel,” director Kitty Green’s gripping, grimy Australian Outback noir, the Royal Hotel is a comically lawless place, lit by the dead glow of fluorescent lights, punctuated by predatory eyes lurking in the shadows.
The eyes belong to men working at the local mining company. To this remote, two-story dump in the middle of nowhere—part bar, part hostel for temporary workers—two American women arrive to make some money behind the bar. The smart and cautious Hanna, played by Julia Garner, and her more reckless, ready-for-anything friend Liv, played by Jessica Henwick (both terrific), quickly realize that they will be putting up with trash talk, harassment, and uncertain wages. programs and worse.
The Royal’s owner, the frequently drunk Billy (Hugo Weaving, a long, hairy comeback from “The Matrix”), is expected to perform the usual female paradox while they’re there and the customers are thirsty: Shut up. , take it and smile. “You’re driving them all away with this attitude,” warns the wary Hanna. “The Royal Hotel” tightens its screws with each scene, taking the place into even darker territory without losing its original sense of place and people.
Liv, who took on this job with wings and prayers due to financial difficulties, at first only wants to see a few kangaroos. Hanna goes for a stroll. At the end of her first day and night at the bar, dealing with an obnoxious but never caricatured assortment of men, Hanna wants to go out. But she stays. There’s a harsh beauty here, especially at night, when the stars are brighter than you’ve ever seen. But in daylight or moonlight, the sounds of fear and razor-thin trouble are everywhere.
Green co-wrote the silent script with Oscar Redding; this is his second narrative film (he also has two feature-length documentaries). previous drama “Assistant” (2019), featured a notable performance from Garner as a film executive assistant caught in the crosshairs of a Harvey Weinstein-style predator. Watch that movie if you haven’t; It is a marvel of minimalist precision and perception.
The simple, solid plot of “The Royal Hotel” demands nothing more than minimalism, but Green’s sophomore triumph is no less definitive than “The Assistant” in its staging, editing and ability to capture what women endure most every day of their lives. Kasra Rassoulzadegan served as editor; Michael Latham’s cinematography is superb in the seductive sunlight and darkness of the bar. Every supporting performance seems perfectly chosen and shrewdly delivered, with Ursula Yovich’s standout work as Carol, an Australian Aboriginal cook whose life with the pub owner is clearly bleak.
The film’s reception throughout the festival was respectful, but the film deserves more than that. I was with him until the last line; Garner and Henwick perform an acting that seems easy but is actually not. It’s a movie of flickering doubts and accumulating, justified paranoia.
Green has made two different, extraordinarily efficient and compact films back to back. This may seem easy, but it is not so; Unless, of course, you are a filmmaker and a writer with his special talents.
“The Royal Hotel” — 3.5 stars (out of 4)
MPA rating: R (for language, sexual content and nudity throughout)
Running time: 1:31
How to watch: In theaters now, premiering on Prime on October 24.
Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.