Friday, March 14, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Review

Ralph Fiennes & Tony Revolori (r) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson's "Enchanted Old Ruin"

There's something magical about a Wes Anderson production. For starters, they're usually all-inclusive: Anderson doesn't just create a story... He creates the world that story takes place in. This time around, it's the Grand Budapest Hotel, a fading relic of a once magnificent mountainside hotel in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. The story is set in three different time periods (1932, 1968 and present day) but centers on the former, when the hotel was under the watchful eye of concierge extraordinaire M. Gustave H., played with unrelenting gusto by BAFTA award winner Ralph Fiennes. At its heart, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a story about an apprentice and his master... and the colorful roads they travel in pursuit of camaraderie (and riches.)

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune -- all against the backdrop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent.

What’s Best: Fiennes is one of the finest actors in the business; but he rarely get a chance to display his comedic chops... something he does with hilarious regularity in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Normally relegated to the role of villain, it's an absolute joy to watch Fiennes strut his stuff. Gustave is many things (good-natured, loyal, professional, suave) yet prone to occasional lapses in judgment and a propensity for dropping the f-bomb. His devilish side is most appealing, especially when he negotiates a deal with Zero to give him 1.5% of the take, room & board and the title of sole heir to his fortune... "minus what we spend on whores and whiskey.' Thank goodness, he has his priorities in order!

The remaining cast is the usual assortment of all-stars one expects to find Anderson surrounded by (Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, to name just a few.) Each actor plays their parts (big or small) with equal aplomb, and a collective reverence towards the success of the finished product. That so many A-level actors flock to Anderson only confirms why he's one of my favorite directors.

What’s Not: There's an air of familiarity to many of Anderson's films... a trait this reviewer finds most appealing; but one that some audiences might consider repetitive and (shudder) unoriginal. Other than that, there's always the risk that he's too smart for his own good. Me? I like a good challenge.

Best Line: Gustave rushes to pay his final respects to Madame D., brilliantly portrayed by Tilda Swinton... interrupting his apparent grief to offer one parting compliment, 'I don't know what kind of cream they put on you at the morgue, but I want some!" Flattery gets you everywhere, including Oscar consideration next February: I can only hope the Academy hasn't forgotten Fiennes by then. Just in case, let's also remind them of Gustave's unabashed declaration, 'I go to bed with all my friends,' when questioned about crossing the lines of fraternization.

Overall: Anderson's movies are a joy to watch... so full of life and activity; and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. Perfectly timed at 99 minutes, there's not a moment wasted in this feast for the eyes, mind and soul. The visuals are delicious, from blood-red elevator interiors to sweeping dining halls. As usual, keep an eye out for small details... such as an old man choking in the lobby as F. Murray Abraham & Law discuss hotel history. Many run to help, including a St. Bernard (appropriately outfitted with a requisite barrel of brandy around his neck.) It's one of many priceless moments in an exceptional film.