Sunday, May 4, 2014

Theatrical Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Date: May 4, 2014
Location: Pocono Community Theater
Time: 1pm

Party: 3 (my mom, sister & I)

Writer/Director: Wes Anderson

Duration: 100 minutes (+3 trailers)

M. Gustave- Ralph Fiennes
Mr. [Zero] Moustafa- F. Murray Abraham
Zero- Tony Revolori
Madame D- Tilda Swinton
Heckels- Edward Norton
Dmitri- Adrien Brody
Jopling- Willem Dafoe
Agatha- Saoirse Ronan
Deputy Kovacs- Jeff Goldblum
M. Ivan- Billy Murray
M. Jean- Jason Schwartzman
M. Chuck- Owen Wilson
Young Writer- Jude Law

Theater & Previews:

We arrived a few minutes before the movie started. There was maybe a dozen other people in theater, most of them looked older than 50.

The first preview was for a Richard Linklater called "Boyhood," which I'd seen posters for on IMDB but don't know much about it. It sounds like it's a labor of love he spent 12 years slaving over and is unlike any movie you'd seen before. Something about following around a family for a dozen years and filming them, although I'm not sure if it's an actual family or they're all actors.

The second looked interesting. It was called "Words and Pictures," starring a very handsome Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche (who I know from "Chocolat") and they're teachers that develop an unusual relationship. He's a writer who's an English professor in danger of losing his job because he has a drinking problem. She's a newly arrived art teacher that's a little rough around the edges and fresh from an injury we'll likely hear about later in the film.

Then the third was "Dom Hemingway," which is said to be a Jude Law performance unlike any other... might be interesting to see down the road. He certainly can't do any worse than "The Talented Mr. Ripley" or "Closer".


Every now and then, we will take the trip downtown to see a movie not available locally. We'd been here maybe a handful of times, including the two Oscar winners I picked correctly (The King's Speech and The Artist), "Water for Elephants" and maybe one other that I'm forgetting.

I kinda expected this movie would be another one of those. For whatever reason, Wes Anderson movies are still deemed to be on the independent circuit so they don't come to all theaters.
Since its release date, I've said how much I want to see it, but it's not playing locally. Luckily, it finally did make it and my patience was well awarded.

When it comes to this particular writer/director, a few things are inevitable.
  • Bill Murray will be in it somewhere
  • We'll get at least one Wilson brother
  • The sets will be incredibly detailed, all the way down to the shelf knick-knacks
  • I'm going to compare it to "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" because it was my first Wes Anderson film.
I was attracted to "The Grand Budapest Hotel" because it looked like another quirky, fun Wes Anderson movie. A few months ago when it was just coming out, I watched the Behind the Scenes special about it on HBO and all of the reviews were positive. People were saying it was the best movie of the year so far.

I'm happy to say that all of the Wes Anderson movies I'd seen so far, this one has been my favorite... second only to "The Fantastic Mr. Fox".

Other than that, I'd seen "Moonrise Kingdom" which I thought was more serious than it had to be and "The Royal Tennebaums" which was so serious it bordered on depressing.

It's kinda hard to explain what "The Royal Budapest Hotel" is about. It starts out with a girl leaving a key at a statue dedicated to a man and she's reading a book named for the movie. We hear the narrative in voiceover and that leads us to the writer talking to a camera. We go back a couple decades and see the writer much younger (played by Jude Law) talking to the man who owned the hotel.

This man (played by F. Murray Abraham) tells us the story the majority of the movie goes into, following the concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and his loyal lobby boy Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori).

M. Gustave teaches Zero the ropes, telling him how a lobby boy treats the guests so well that he anticipates their needs before they do.
The hotel is located in a very exclusive, but beautiful location. The inside runs like a well-oiled machine, like something we'd only read about or see on film. Just wondrous to behold.
It's also suggested that M. Gustave takes such care of his guests that he meets their every need, some of which are sexual.

This movie is R-rated, but it goes as far as partial or brief nudity (some of this is in paintings and drawings on the walls) and the amount of cussing.
With the former, I was wary because I didn't want to expose my sister to too much. She was a little more concerned with the amount of cussing (she counted 13-14 f-bombs).

The plot takes off when one of the regular hotel guests passes away. He and Zero goes to her estate to pay respects and to see if she left anything in her will to him. Her will bequeathed to him a portrait known as "Boy with Apple."
Her family is all looking for their cut and is taken aback by the concierge's inclusion in the will. Her son Dmitri is the most vocal, very opposed to him getting the painting... for whatever reason :shrug: seems silly to me, but there's gotta be conflict somewhere.

When they arrive back at the hotel, the police are there looking from him... for some reason believing he killed her.
I saw this scene in the Behind the Scenes where he says "I knew something was suspicious, we never got the cause of death" and he proceeds to run from the authorities.

The movie progresses as he's put in jail, he and some inmates plan a break-out and another member of the Madame's family, Jopling, goes after the executor of her will.
Willem Dafoe plays this role almost like it was written for Christopher Walken. He's pretty hardcore about it, although I'm having trouble recalling if he has much dialogue.

The humor varies from being incredibly obvious to an actor randomly cussing up a storm when something doesn't go their way to something that takes a while for the laugh to hit. The pacing is slow at times. There was a period after the prison break scene where I found myself getting bored because not much was going on and there weren't many laughs to be had.

Another thing that can be expected in a Wes Anderson film is pacing. Often times, you'll have a scene where things race by you, both with the scenery and with the dialogue that it's hard to keep up. Then in the scene immediately afterwards, everything stops and it's almost so quiet you can hear a pin drop.

Probably my favorite part was the chase scene (and its hilarious resolution) where M. Gustave and Zero on a toboggan are chasing after Jopling on skis. You get all kinds of twists and turns. You see a sign that welcomes us to the sight of the local winter games (how timely of them :-P), which includes slaloms, ski jumps and sledding tracks. I won't give away the resolution, but it's unexpected and one of the best laughs of the entire movie.

Pretty much all of the actors are great in this. It's certainly interesting to see Ralph Fiennes do a comedic role after only knowing him as Voldemort for the past several years :-P
Most of the cast members, Wes Anderson has worked with before, including Jason Schwartzman (who I will give his due in my "Fantastic Mr. Fox" review), Edward Norton and Jude Law.

Overall, I found it very enjoyable. The details and quirks were as I expected them to be but there were plenty of surprises in between. The scenery was often vast and the fact it takes place in wintertime with plenty of snowflakes... I just love that, it makes it all look so beautiful.
Yeah, winter does suck and the fact we've had so much snow this year sucks, but I'm a sucker for great winter scenery. My "Frozen" review went into it quite a bit ;)

In its constructs, it's probably the best realized movie I'd seen so far this year. I didn't fully enjoy it as much as some of the other ones I'd seen so far, but it was very satisfying.
I guess you could say it's a sleeper hit in that the enjoyment comes in small subtle doses and doesn't hit as many highs as it could have.

Grade: B+

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Non-fans of Anderson's work may not like it nearly as much, but it's still well worth the watch nonetheless. Good review Jackie.