The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Release: Friday, March 7, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

Getting to work with Wes Anderson on any given project just has to be an unforgettable experience. If he called, I honestly don’t know how one would be able to use the word ‘No’ during that conversation; that scheduling conflict better be worth it.

Whether just a weekend visitor or planning to rent out a room for the long term, an actor who steps foot inside the lobby of Wes Anderson’s creative space is never quite the same afterwards. Ideally, this is what happens anyway. The opportunity of getting to work alongside such a unique and self-assured director has been one a diverse collection of actors has already taken advantage of and benefitted from.

It’s like clockwork with this guy. Each time he has a new offering there are more big names to point out in a cast that seems to continuously expand. In the case of his latest, the roster has swelled to very grand proportions indeed. Weekend visitors this time around include the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Tom Wilkinson, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan and Léa Seydoux — all names that bear much recognition already but that also decided they could use some time away at the Wes Anderson school hotel of filmmaking in order to tap new potential.

Their career moves aren’t so much brave as they are smart. In 2014 the aforementioned names are to join the Wes Anderson fraternity — Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, among others all being potential role models for the newcomers to this wild and wacky world created by one of the most original filmmakers in the business today. By attracting this large of a cast, his new work seems to be bursting at the seams with potential to take his signature quirk to the highest level.

This year Anderson has whipped up The Grand Budapest Hotel, a rollercoaster ride of a friendship between hotel concierge M. Gustave H (Fiennes) and his lobby boy-in-training, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). Taking up the task of training the wet-behind-the-ears lad, Gustave proudly and confidently tours both Zero and the audience through the expansive and elegant enclaves of the hotel whilst explaining the proper etiquette that is expected of its staff. Gustave is something of a celebrity in the mountainous region of the Republic of Zubrowka, where his hotel is located, as he has been known to go to bed with several of his female guests — all of whom have been blonde.

His latest escapade with an elderly woman leaves Gustave embroiled in controversy when evidence of her mysterious death surfaces and doesn’t exactly cast him in a favorable light. As it turns out, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) was an incredibly wealthy individual with a number of possessions to give away. In a surprise move, she bequeathes a rare painting to Gustave for his kindness and care in her later years, and this is done to her surviving family’s great chagrin.

Embittered and angry sons Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and Jopling — which must be a Zubrowkan name for ‘Dracula’ or something because Willem Dafoe looks the part — plot Gustave’s demise in the ensuing chapters. Gustave and Zero bond over the years as they attempt to prove his innocence in the matter by traveling all over the ridiculous place just to get him an alibi. He has to consort with the mysterious Serge X (Mathieu Amalric) in order to do so and at the same time, avoid the increasing threat posed by Jopling and Dmitri. For his assistance and loyalty in this most trying time, Gustave promises to make young Zero his heir at the Grand Budapest, all in due course. . .of course.

Despite the film borrowing shamelessly elements from all other Anderson films — as all other Anderson films do of all other Anderson films — The Grand Budapest Hotel is decidedly one of the darker tales. It shares the same giddy levels of cartoonish action and physical comedy, and the writing is sharply written to the point of guaranteeing at least one painful laugh per half hour. It is even divided up into small chapters like other films are. It features heavy narration and a bevy of well-known actors in funny roles and outfits.

Upon reflection, the 2014 effort features a central story that’s generally bleaker than a lot of his other material has been. Though it is not completely lacking, there isn’t quite as much adoration or affection presented in the affairs ongoing. Even though we’re told about it, we don’t see Zero’s passionate love affair develop much with Agatha (Saoirse Ronan); there are more threats than laughs coming from Madame D’s family as the investigation continues into the death of a member of elite society; Gustave goes to prison for some time because he gets framed for the murder. When Zero’s backstory is given time to be explained, the film looks to be heading in the direction of full-on drama but thanks to the strength of the screenplay and the awareness of Anderson, we never quite go there.

Even when it is apparent that the fate of the hotel is anything but certain given the looming violence on the European horizon, this is through-and-through a Wes Anderson comedy-drama that banks on the same appeal his films have consistently displayed and been appreciated for over the last 20 years.

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4-0Recommendation: Although it doesn’t do much in the way of providing an argument as to why it should be considered his best, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a traditional Anderson dish with a European flare. Almost slapstick in delivering the laughs, the tale is quickly paced once it gets going, though first-time or on-the-fence viewers might find the first twenty minutes or so a bit tedious. Although, the Anderson tropes and the film’s slow opening may all be forgotten if one is a big enough fan of Ralph Fiennes. A stellar turn for the man in a role that contrasts considerably from his usual fare.

Rated: R

Running Time: 100 mins.

Quoted: “You’re looking so well darling, you really are. I don’t know what sort of cream they put on you down at the morgue but, I want some.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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39 thoughts on “The Grand Budapest Hotel

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  4. Interesting take Tom. I don’t really have anything to base this on because I haven’t seen much of Anderson’s back catalogue, but I can see where you’re coming from. I actually really enjoyed the slapstick element that you mentioned. It’s all a bit mad!

    Adam.

    • Forgive me for overlooking this comment Adam. Haha. Another one slipped through the cracks.

      I think the effectiveness of any of Anderson’s work is one’s ability to tolerate really quirky characters and awkward situations. Some more cynical people say if you’ve seen one Anderson film, you’ve seen them all. . . and that’s true, to a degree. He’s always stylish to a fault and his characters are many and bizarre. But I always love his work. They’re total escapist bits and TGBH is no exception. It’s not my favorite but it’s up there.

  5. Wes Anderson is a favorite of mine. Probably wouldn’t make my Top 3 of his films, BUT this is currently my favorite film of 2014. I loved it. Nice write up!

    • Yeah I know how you feel, there’s a lot of crowding at the top for that honor. I am a bigtime Wes Anderson fan and this newest edition of his work is a strong one. It lacked something truly awesome that I felt pushed MK further up my list, but there was no denying how good Ralph Fiennes et al were in this. Thanks for reading good sir

    • Thank you very much Zoe! It is an excellent romp my friend. I really do think you’ll enjoy it. It deserves many viewings, I think though. It’s layered. Like a. . . . funny. . . . .cheese. . . .cake. ?

  6. I think I like this as much as Fantastic Mr Fox which is my current fave from Wes. Glad you enjoyed this too Tom, the swifter pacing certainly made it more entertaining for me, not to mention seeing Fiennes in a rare comedic role. LOVE him!

    • He was terrific wasn’t he? Him along with the young Tony Revolori made for a fantastic and ever-watchable pair. Loved every scene of them on the train. . .that motif just became ridiculous! And there was so much other hilarity to this film I really do have to go see it again I think. I think I’ll always put Fantastic Mr. Fox at the very top b/c that just clicked with me 100%.

      Thanks for reading Ruth

    • That’s excellent news man, I want to revisit it myself. I feel like I missed a lot of the magic. I really did enjoy it but I have actually forgotten about a lot of it. And i must remedy this.

      • Yeah they really are man. They present so much to us and sometimes the worlds are so strange we need to rewatch at least once more to fully get into it all. This is a great example of that happening. There’ll be so much to discover and like with each new viewing.

  7. I enjoyed it! Not my favorite of Anderson’s work either, but it certainly had more than a few awesome moments. I loved William Dafoe’s serial killer and how this one is of the crime/comedy combination. I laughed out loud multiple times! Fiennes may be an annoying looking dude, yet he remains a great actor. Yeah, I do not know what I mean by that. He just has one of those faces that bother you? Know what I mean? No? That is okay. Point remains that he did a fantastic job! Even Brody who is short on charisma at times did excellent in the villain role!

    • Hahahah that’s a funny comment about Fiennes’ face. . .man. Well fine! Don’t like Fiennes!!!!! Nah, I really like him but I do know a few others who have faces that closely resemble punching bags.

      This movie is him at his best I think. This movie was so damn funny but also very complex. I’m feeling like I owe the movie at least another trip to the theater b/c I feel like I have missed much from it. I’ve got that sort of feeling where I was impressed by it but not overwhelmed. I feel as though I should be overwhelmingly ecstatic about it, you know? I wish to change it. We’ll see.

      • You want to hear something weird Tom? I’m the exact same way about it and I cannot figure out why. I loved it, but I’m not in love with it….you know what I’m saying?

        Fantastic movie regardless….

      • Yeah! I think we agree 100% here. Something SOMEthing about it. . . .

        I loved Moonrise Kingdom much more. But that’s still not saying I didn’t like Budapest

  8. Great stuff mate. This was so much fun, you barely have time to blink from start to finish. It gets a little convoluted but it’s still thoroughly enjoyable, and Fiennes is absolutely brilliant. He really proves his versatility with this.

    • There was definitely a lot going on in this affair man, you’re right. Glad you also think very highly of Fiennes, he was indeed great. Prob the best part of the film, either rthat or the chemistry between him and young Tony Revolori. Might have to consider going back to see this in theaters again, since there was so much to absorb

  9. I have to say . . . I loved the opening, which might by why I think this could be Anderson’s best to date. I think the opening frames the film and fuels the nostalgia themes.

    I totally agree that this one is darker than most of his work. I think it just as funny, though. Anyway, good review.

    • Thank you sir!

      I didn’t necessarily *dislike* the beginning but thought it was a bit lagging even though it did set up the narratives well, and that’s a nice point about it providing a sense of nostalgia, didn’t really think much about that but you’re certainly right. All around strong entry, I think as I let it linger for a couple of days I might end up liking it even more. Still, 7/8 ain’t bad! 😉

  10. Superlative stuff Tom my boy. Capital! I’m delighted you took to this as warmly as I did. Like you I don’t place this at the top of the pile, but it’s right up there.

    • It was pretty damn funny Mark, it’s one I’ll likely return to again and again, but in my opinion his 2012 output was among his best. (Fantastic Mr. Fox is right there with it of course 😉 ) Although this wasn’t as good, it lived up to expectations for sure. Ralph Fiennes was absolutely great in this, wasn’t he??

  11. Good review Tom. It’s basically the type of movie we expect to see from Anderson, except done on a much-larger scale, as well as still filled with all sorts of excitement and fun.

    • Good point. It does feel like the story takes on a much larger scale than others that have come before this. There’s so much going on here it’s almost hard to remember favorite bits. haha. Sure sign of a director doing his job.

    • Thanks man, very surprised to hear you were letdown with MK! That ranks among my favorites for sure, and think it a mile above this one. Budapest is still signature as ever but not his best i didn’t think.

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