(Contributed by Janice Kei) As a set piece, hotels have a key role on-screen. Whether as a central feature of the story, a backdrop offering a sense of time and place, or a MacGuffin pushing forward the plot, hotels can play a significant role in triggering a viewer’s curiosity.
Some have become synonymous with the movies they are featured in, and have even inspired (for better or for worse) a niche of staying at hotels that have featured heavily. Such hotels have become popular as they are often directly named. Instead, we will look at some that are perhaps even better known as hotels, but appear a bit more discreetly and anonymously in pop culture.
Alert: May contain movie and plot spoilers…
The floating palace James Bond swims up to confront Octopussy would be immediately recognised by luxury travel enthusiasts as the eponymous Taj Lake Palace in India. The white marble and mosaic palace hovers majestically on the waters of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Of course, such a stunner has to be used as a villain’s lair in a Bond movie, but the now Taj hotel is the former palace to the royal dynasty to Mewar. The palace is adorned with traditional Indian grit moldings and fretwork screens that decorate every corner of the interior. The hotel experience retains much of its nobility: arrivals are by boat only, and guests are treated and served by the Royal Butlers, descending from a lineage of caretakers from the Palace itself.
It is a delicious irony that the ‘City of Angels’ would play host to the Devil (yes we mean the Devil himself), Lucifer, lured by the image of Tinseltown. Located in the heart of West Hollywood in Los Angeles, Sunset Tower Hotel serves as the set for Lucifer’s penthouse: the exterior of the building has been CGI modified to fit the penthouse and Lucifer’s LUX nightclub (though the interiors of the nightclub are not from the hotel). Sunset Tower Hotel contrasts the art deco facade of the building with understated, chic interiors. Wrap around terraces offer some of the best views in California, overlooking Hollywood Hills and the skyline of L.A. The property combines old Hollywood charms with contemporary convenience, and is also considered the unofficial epicentre of Hollywood, in large part to the popular Tower Bar.
The Juvet Landscape Hotel, disguised as a secluded private home, contributes to the elusive tension of the chilling sci-fi thriller Ex-Machina. Strangely, the dystopian theme of the movie is at odds with the hotel’s remote setting in the complete tranquility of nature. The isolated hotel in Norway offers panoramic views from every ‘Landscape Room’: the seven glass cubes on stilts that pare it back architecturally with classic Nordic minimalism, fixating instead on the views of the ever changing light and seasons in forested wilderness.
Adam Sandler’s character in the movie Couples Retreat takes his wife and their friends to a retreat in the South Pacific in an attempt to ‘find oneself’ and as a panacea to solve all relationship issues. They land at overwater heaven at The St. Regis Bora Bora (named differently in the movie). Aquatic and land experiences, many of which are featured in the movie, are available easily, and the clear undulating hues of blue and green help set the mood for romance. The unrivaled view of Mount Otemanu in the distance serves as an enduring symbol of the pleasure of The St. Regis Bora Bora.
In Crazy Rich Asians, excess and a flagrant show of money are key running themes, best exhibited by the overly lavish bachelor’s party on a cargo ship in ‘international waters’. The maidens all head over to a more low key affair for their infamously disastrous party, shown to be at a “private resort”, which is actually the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi in nearby Malaysia. The resort itself is set in stunning surrounds: combining pristine jungle with a long beachfront. Located within a million-year-old Geopark, the resort allows for integration of the natural environment to discover the mysterious creatures that inhabit the Malaysian fauna, and in cultural aspects to learn generations-old fishing methods. Interestingly, when protagonist Nick Young and his friend Colin Khoo escape the bachelor party, they are shown to be on a floating pontoon in an ocean surrounded by lush greenery, though never identified in the movie. This is actually the pontoon at the end of the beach at the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi from where fishing lessons can be conducted.
The plot centres around two American school friends who fake their own death and steal identities to live out a fresh, new life in another country. Sadly, it’s an entirely forgettable movie except for one unforgettable scene: they move in to an unmistakable two-storey hacienda in Puerto Rico – easily identified as Su Casa at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, before their situation becomes increasingly more precarious. No amount of Googling will confirm this (it’s never listed or credited), but those in the know, just know. Although the scenes inside their Puerto Rican mansion are lifted from another setting, the exterior shots are distinctly noticeable: the resort’s crown jewel is a 1920s five-bedroom hacienda featuring twin curved staircases in a wraparound verandah, a private pool and set alongside a private stretch of coast. The rest of the Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort, a Laurance S. Rockefeller legacy from the ‘50s, is never featured, but the 50-acre retreat offers discretion, coastal living and luxury – perhaps why the two central characters in The Do-Over chose it to retire away.
Note and edit: Su Casa, which is featured in this movie rather than the actual resort of Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is no longer part of the Ritz-Carlton Reserve collection, so we’ve offered a bonus movie hotel below.
In the enjoyable spy remake starring Alicia Vikander (who also starred in Ex-Machina featured earlier), Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer and a timely musical score, when the three spies aren’t running around trying to foil enemy plans to create a nuclear bomb, they’re enjoying time at the incredible Grand Hotel Plaza Roma. The hotel, centrally situated in Via del Corso between Piazza del Polopo and Piazza Venezia is just a short walk from renowned Roman squares, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Forum Romanum. Much of the scenes take place inside the magnificently decorated suites and grand common areas of the hotel, as well as the terraces overlooking some of Rome’s most important monuments. The hotel is no stranger to movies, having also featured in Ocean’s 12, Gangs of New York and Along Came Polly.
Are there any favourites of yours we have missed? Let us know in the comments below.
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