Sunday, March 23, 2014

Movie Review: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

I've always been enamored of movies with a healthy dose of humorous or eccentric quirk, like Christopher Guest's (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman), but not so much those whose quirkiness leans more toward the bizarre. This should explain quite well why I'm such a fan of Wes Anderson's movies.

His latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is a little more slapsticky than his more recent movies, but it's still vintage Wes Anderson. Set primarily in the 1930s in a fictional European country, it tells the story of the regal Grand Budapest Hotel, and its chief concierge, the sly, fey, manipulative Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes, getting the chance to show off his comic chops for once). Gustave H is a stickler for perfection and customer service, which in his own mind means romancing all of the elderly female guests, and dousing himself liberally in a memorable cologne.

While this European country is on the brink of war, Gustave H is fighting his own battle—he has been accused of murdering one of his paramours, the elderly and colossally wealthy Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). Madame D, much to the chagrin of her children—particularly her son Dmitri (a dastardly Adrien Brody)—has left Gustave a famous painting, but that codicil to her will is under suspicion. At the same time, Gustave is training a new lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who is willing to follow Gustave's every whim, as long as he stops flirting with Zero's beloved, baker Agatha (a sly Saoirse Ronan).

As Gustave fights to clear his name and free himself from prison (with the help of Zero and some fellow convicts), he's also determined to find out the truth behind who killed Madame D., even if it means tangling with Dmitri's hired muscle (Willem Dafoe, looking a little vampirish). What ensues are chase scenes, scandalous discoveries, social commentary about the changing humanity in the face of war, and undying loyalty between Zero and Gustave. It's a fun little romp, full of vintage Anderson flourishes and elaborate art and set direction.

This is a little lighter in nature than, say, Moonrise Kingdom or The Royal Tenenbaums, but I found it just as enjoyable. What I love most about Anderson's films are the worlds he creates and the complexity and idiosyncrasies of his characters, and this movie had both of those touches. The Grand Budapest Hotel, both in the 1930s and 1960s, where the movie is narrated from, is a creation all its own, populated with memorable, passionate, and quirky characters. (Many of Anderson's regulars—Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Brody, Dafoe, and Swinton—are back again for more.)

I loved Ralph Fiennes in this movie. So often he plays morose characters, if not evil ones (cough, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, cough), so it's awesome to see him get to sink his teeth into such a humorous, campy role. I really enjoyed his delivery in many scenes, and the dedication Gustave has to the hotel, even as he's trying to benefit himself as well. Revolori does a great job as the loyal lobby boy, and it's also good to see Ronan smiling in her part. There are so many actors crammed into this movie that you both enjoy their performances and find yourself saying "Oh, wow, they're in this, too?"

Wes Anderson's movies aren't for everyone. But if you're looking for some wisecracking, unusual fun, with some enjoyable performances, definitely check this one out. If you like your movies a little more straightforward and less strange, you might want to pass this one by. I really enjoyed it, though.

1 comment:

  1. We went with a friend yesterday afternoon and I was the only one laughing in the entire theater!