Shangri-La Suite

Directed by: Eddie O’Keefe
Distributed by: Gravitas Ventures 

Written by Livvy O’Brien


Eddie O’Keefe’s debut feature-length film “Shangri-La Suite” is an alluring watch that intrigues with its unique blend of romance and crime. While objectively it has its fair share of flaws, I find myself drawn to the film’s distinct style and performance from lead actors Emily Browning, Luke Grimes and Avan Jogia. One of the film’s standout components is its eccentric storyline that follows star-crossed lovers Jack (Grimes) and Karen (Browning) who steal a Cadillac and embark on a road trip with the only objective being to kill Elvis Presley. This bold and audacious plot alone is enough to pique one’s interest and I think O’Keefe deserves some credit for his ambition in tackling such a bizarre plot. 

Visually, “Shangri-La Suite” is brilliant. It’s undeniably cool and easily the film’s strongest asset. The vivid cinematography captures the zeitgeist of the 1970s, which immerses the audience in an era of rebellion and freedom. O’Keefe describes it as a “Pulpy 16mm fever dream of Americana” in an interview with Issue Magazine which is very accurate. This low-budgety aesthetic film is a fantasy of psychedelic haze with a dash of surrealism that creates a dream-like atmosphere. The harsh spotlight that is displayed upon the characters recreates the moment that a simple picture cannot capture. I have undoubtedly been hypnotised by such enchanting energy that it almost takes away from the film’s flaws. Almost. 

Although I enjoyed this film, I know that it has issues. It was difficult to tell if it was satire or not at times. The dialogue was cringeworthy, leading me to believe that this was a parody film, criticising the lovers-on-the-run genre, which can come off as tryhard edgy. However, it didn’t quite reach that degree of satire, which implies either the jokes fell flat or it wasn’t meant to be a parody of “Bonnie and Clyde.” O’Keefe’s work frequently includes narration and “Shangri-La Suite” is no exception. Burt Reynolds, a 70s icon, narrates the film, but the narration is done in such a way that it feels like a retelling of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Another area where the film falls short is in its thematic exploration. “Shangri-La Suite” touches on subjects like mental health, romance, death, identity and the pursuit of dreams but does not go further into these topics, leaving the audience unsatisfied. Furthermore, several plot themes felt forced and unnatural, leaving some character development and motivations detached from a greater story. The potential for a weighty exploration is evident, but the execution leaves something to be desired. 

The aesthetic and soundtrack of “Shangri-La Suite” is undoubtedly appealing. I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest piece of media out there, and it’s certainly not an intellectual think piece film that makes you question your existence, but it will take you on a mindless journey into a 70s dreamland of Americana. If you enjoy Lana Del Rey, you are most certainly this film’s target demographic, so for an hour and a half, it’s worth a watch.

“Shangri-La Suite” Trailer

You can follow Livvy O’Brien on Letterboxd.

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