Movie Review: Hotel Coolgardie - a compelling, yet chilling watch

Hotel Coolgardie opens in select NZ cinemas on June 22.

Hotel Coolgardie (TBC)
83mins  ★★★½

Coopers Crossing this ain't.

Sure Coolgardie's Denver City Hotel might look like a typical two-storey Aussie country pub, but the publican is more EastEnders' Dirty Den than The Flying Doctors' Vic Buckley. It's Pete's way or the highway.

The locals say it's a place where the flies are friendly and somewhere they are more than happy to regularly frequent, even if they pretty much have to provide their own entertainment.

One of the town's highlights though, is the arrival of new barmaids every few months. Chosen by Pete  through an agency ("If they look good, they don't need experience," he leers in one of the first of the doco's many disturbing  pronouncements), each new pair of backpackers faces a warm welcome that includes outside chalkboard top billing.

Finnish backpackers Steph and Lina's task is made even harder by both cultural and language barriers and the success of their predecessors. Clio and Becky were perceived a pair of much-loved, fun-loving good-time gals who gave as good as they got, so as the two newbies struggle with the till, drinks orders, slang and sexist and xenophobic slurs, Pete's patience quickly wears thin.

Life at Coolgardie's Denver City Hotel is not for the faint-hearted or easily-offended.

Life at Coolgardie's Denver City Hotel is not for the faint-hearted or easily-offended.

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A cross between Kiwi rugby documentary The Ground We Won and an Aussie outback horror film, Hotel Coolgardie is a compelling yet chilling watch.

While Gleeson tries his hardest to get us to look beyond the troubling attitudes and pronouncements of the town's populace, it's hard not to feel somewhat unclean after spending 80 minutes in their company. You also find yourself wondering why the Finns endured such a demeaning and potentially dangerous workplace. However, beneath any overt feelings of contempt, you also find yourself recognising a similarity to people and places you might have encountered in the past. As director Gleeson himself says, "it might be an intensely Aussie experience, but its themes are universal".

There's also no small amount of humour amongst the horror, from what surely must be the worst Mr Whippy in the world to the unique world-view of local celebrity Can Man


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