Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a Wes Anderson film. If you liked his other films (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom) then you will like this. If you didn't, you won't. If you have not seen any of those films, read on.

Wes Anderson films are wordy, slick, contrived, and pretentious. They tend to feature voiceovers and complicated, unlikely plots. In this case, the story revolves around the titular hotel, which is not in Budapest at all, but rather in a fictional Eastern European country. It mostly takes place in two times, one of them a story within a story and the other a story within a story within a story. If that was confusing, just don't bother.

As is usual for Wes Anderson films, this one features a large and extraordinary cast, of whom Ralph Fiennes gets the most screen time, followed by Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and many more. The highlight, though, is a young actor named Tony Revolori, who until this had only minor TV and short film credits for roles such as Younger Boy, Boy, and Kid #2. Despite this, he more than holds his own opposite Ralph Fiennes in the main plotline.

That main plot follows Revolori's character Zero and his adventures as the Lobby Boy at the Grand Budapest Hotel in the time just before and during World War II. Fiennes plays the concierge and de facto operator of the hotel whose legendary flattery and flirtation drive the action.

The story framing this story is set in the 70s and mostly features F. Murray Abraham's Mr Moustafa telling the main plot to Jude Law's Young Writer, a guest at the declining hotel. This portion of the movie really only exists as a storytelling device.

There are only two female roles worth noting - Tilda Swinton as the aged Madame D and Saoirse Ronan as Agatha, each of whom are involved in the story only because they are romantically linked to the two male leads. The actresses are wonderful in their roles, but the roles themselves are disappointing.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is billed as a Comedy-Drama, but is really a dry farce. Most characters are paper thin, and the events depicted are ludicrously improbable. There is nothing particularly substantial about the movie - it is the airy confection that the hotel resembles in the poster. Anderson does do a wonderful job making his bizarre plot into a compelling experience, though, and the end result is really quite entertaining.

The movie features a scene of animal violence that some will find disturbing.

Performance: 3.5/5
Plot: 3/5
Production: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5
Bechdel: Fail
Reverse-Bechdel: Pass
Mako Mori: Fail
What are these?

1. Lone Survivor
2. The Wind Rises
3. The Lego Movie
4. Lust For Love
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Pompeii
7. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
8. I, Frankenstein
9. Monuments Men
10. Knights of Badassdom
11. Divergent
12. 300: Rise of an Empire
13. RoboCop
14. Winter's Tale
15. The Legend of Hercules
16. Need For Speed
17. 3 Days to Kill

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