Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Slamdance ’17: Hotel Coolgardie

The Denver City Hotel makes your local Hooters look cosmopolitan. Coolgardie is located smack dab in the middle of Australia’s Goldfield region, so naturally many of the pub’s patrons are miners. You would expect it to be a ruckus place, but the rustic blokiness reaches highly problematic levels in Pete Gleeson’s documentary, Hotel Coolgardie, which screens during the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival.

After losing their money in Bali, Lina and Steph managed to make their way to first-world Australia. Signing on with an employment agency that specializes in short term provincial assignments, they agree to sign on as barmaids at the Denver City. There will not be a lot of distractions to spend the wages on in Coolgardie, so they ought to be able to save money relatively rapidly. However, they are not prepared for the inhospitable treatment they receive from the owner and they are rather taken aback by some of the customers. One in particular could be the live-action version of Barney from Moe’s Tavern on The Simpson’s. Of course, he has a hard crush on Lina.

It is safe to say the two Finns do not fit in well. Frankly, it really seems to be everyone’s fault. They never make much of an effort, but nobody really helps them either. Pretty much all they get from the locals are reprimands and drunken propositions. Regardless, there is no excuse for being a hostile employer.

Not surprisingly, the Goldfields tourism bureau has had a conniption fit over Gleeson’s film, but it is hard to imagine how any of his scenes could be taken out of context. Nor does he portray Coolgardie as monolithically troglodytic. The Finns rather take a shine to an old-timer known as “Canman,” who tragically died shortly after filming wrapped—and at least of the good old boys really seems like a decent chap, who they should have treated better.

Hotel takes a dark turn in the third act that technically has nothing to do with sexism or exploitation, but makes Coolgardie like an even less desirable place to visit. Basically, Gleeson’s film is a stone-cold reality check to horny summer sex comedies. It also lands on the media spectrum around where proper documentaries start to approach reality television. That also means it is never boring. Recommended for the voyeuristic, Hotel Coolgardie screens this Thursday (1/26) at Treasure Mountain Inn, as part of this year’s Slamdance.

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