For me director/writer Wes Anderson has been an acquired taste. Certainly the animated "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009) and "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012) have become personal favorites. This film has joined the list of brilliant filmmaking. Part 1930's Keystone Cops, part romance, part mystery, part thriller and part about anything else, Anderson has created a world he clearly enjoys but may be a bit strange to the rest of us. Using fictitious settings, characters and evil empires he tosses in terra cotta and other pastels to brighten an otherwise place of increasing darkness in the world.
The time is the 1930's (with flashbacks and flash-forwards) and the setting is a country high in the mountains of Eastern Europe. M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes)is the concierge at the upscale titled hotel. For all practical purposes, he runs the place. His services are readily available especially to the elderly widows that seek him out. He is always accommodating and fairly suggests gender is not an issue. One of his favorite clients is the rich and powerful Madame D. (an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton) who at 84 "isn't the oldest he's...uh serviced" he announces. Under his tutelage is "lobby boy" Zero (Tony Revolori). When interviewed for the job, Gustave asks, "Why do you want to be a lobby boy?" "Who wouldn't" Zero responds.
Zero is played in later life by F. Murray Abraham who is telling the story to a young writer played by Jude Law. When Madame D. dies, a valuable painting is left to Gustave much to the chagrin of her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and her 3 ugly daughters. When Gustave, who along with Zero have gone to the funeral, realizes Dmitri isn't going to let him leave the castle with the painting, he decides to just take it, which leads them off into the wintery slopes.
Anderson fills up the story with an assortment of regulars including Jeff Goldblum as Madame D.'s executor, Harvey Keitel as a prison inmate, Edward Norton as a military police detective, Saoirse Ronan as Zero's girlfriend complete with a large raspberry birthmark on her cheek, "shaped like Mexico" as well as Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Bob Balaban as fellow concierges. What is so wonderful about this movie is the silliness of course, but also a nostalgic look back at a bygone era before storm troopers and Ruskies took over that part of the world. Anderson and his wonderful set designers came up with an unusual but satisfying look at the period. Often using miniatures, it just looks great. The film revolves around Fiennes great performance as Gustave. He spits out the words placed there by Anderson with a sense of confidence, breeding and intellect. And he's funny as hell. Highly recommended.
on March 29, 2014
I had been waiting to see Wes Anderson's latest project from the moment it was announced. The Canadian release date was delayed, and then ended up being limited to a few theaters. I'm happy to say that it finally made it to a local theater and I saw it at the earliest opportunity a few hours ago.
To describe the plot would be both difficult and pointless. Wes Anderson is an acquired taste and fans are likely to love everything he releases. The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly has the same tongue-in-cheek tone of his previous films, and the similarities don't end there. Neil Young once said that his output was all one song, and Anderson's feels like all one film.
The story is beautifully framed, with an old man recollecting his past to an interested writer. The images are typical Anderson, with the usual explosion of colors and storybook settings. This feeling is heightened by the use of title cards to denote the chapters and the familiar style of music used in previous efforts. The story takes place in three different time periods, but we spend most of our time in 1932. All of the scenes from the past are shown in full screen, while the main narration sequences are in widescreen.
All I will say about the plot is that is focuses on hotel employees M. Gustave (Fiennes) and Zero Moustafa (Revolori). Gustave dates old women and one of them leaves him a valuable painting in her will. Her family are rather annoyed, and hire someone to retrieve the painting. The story is incredibly detailed and vast, despite only running for 100 minutes. There are frequent moments of witty humor, farce, irony and visual gags. Most of Anderson's regulars appear in the film at some point, and it's a tribute to him that such talents are willing to show up for such limited screen time.
Fiennes is very effective as Gustave. He's eloquent, and fond of reciting poetry, but his comic timing is perfect throughout. The vocabulary is not what you would expect from a typical movie, but it is offset with occasional expletives, which are extremely funny in the context of the film.
I was reassured by the large audience that showed up on a Saturday morning to watch a film by a director who does nothing to try to appeal to the masses. There is a shootout scene, but not like anything you have ever witnessed. Wes Anderson is like Stephen King or David Lynch in the way that he slightly skews reality; unlike those two, Anderson's stories are much lighter in tone. I despise cruelty to animals, but you'll laugh at a scene involving a cat. It's similar to Snoopy's fate in Moonrise Kingdom.
It's so refreshing to see a filmmaker with ideas. Aren't you tired of seeing Hollywood blockbusters that are predictable and tired? Grand Budapest will never let you relax because there is so much information to absorb. The dialogue is strange, the settings are like something out of a dream, numerous objects and props are weird in themselves. It took me a few moments to come back to reality after the movie because I was still in that world as I walked out of the theater. I didn't even hear someone call my name until their third try.
I imagine The Grand Budapest Hotel will reveal new things every time you watch it, and I can't wait to add it to my collection and see it again. This may be Anderson's most accessible film to date, but he definitely hasn't deviated from his unique style.
on March 29, 2014
Elegant, zany, laugh out loud funny and beautifully executed from start to finish, the latest from Wes Anderson's wild imagination is a wonderful film with a timeless and wonderfully executed story to tell.
The Grand Budapest Hotel follows the misadventures of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and Zero Mustafa (newcomer Tony Revolori) as they avoid a bitter family out for their heads, a persistent yet misguided police force and the military of their fictional country. It's as lively and exciting as one might think, but Anderson's talent for film directing is finally at it's peak. A deliciously whimsical adventure ensues, and with an all star cast permeating this wonderful movie landscape things can only be wonderful. The themes of humanity and responsibility are well though out, and the impending fear of war within this illusionary tale make for a great juxtaposition against the backdrop of grave tragedy.
First and foremost, this is a Wes Anderson movie. It is whimsical, darkly comedic but isn't without its wonderful bits of humanity and heartwarming character development. Everything is here, from the sweeping panoramas, zoom shots and dioramas for sets that we expect. The sense of direction and style is impeccable, and throughout this myriad of genres his pleasant and unique style shines brightly. Everything from the pacing to character development is perfect; While the film does clip along, nothing feels rushed. I absolutely loved every moment of this frenzied doll house escapade, from the whimsical moments of action to the darkly comical poetry of Ralph Fiennes' character.
Speaking of which, Ralph Fiennes is in the zone; M. Gustave is one of his finest roles he's played in his whole career. Bitingly funny, endearing and lovable, M. Gustave steals the show. But without the rest of the cast (Tony Revolori, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Adiren Brody, Jude Law...the list goes on) The Grand Budapest Hotel wouldn't be nearly as entertaining or lively as it is. Anderson has put together an incredibly talented cast, and everyone does a phenomenal job (even Owen Wilson)! The dynamics between various characters, the writing and the screenplay are absolutely fantastic.
Musically The Grand Budapest Hotel perfectly complements the film also. It's whimsical, lively, and comical while also being very unique. Epic lute solos, gorgeous choirs and those typical "Anderson beats" permeate the entirety of the film. It's absolutely wonderful, from unique start to whimsical and silly finish. Specific scenes also have a musical arc (one of the best examples is the monastery scene), and being a music fan this complexity and symbiosis of score and film is wonderful.
My biggest complaint is actually something that I appreciate, which is odd! The Grand Budapest Hotel is a story told from different perspectives throughout the years. When the film cuts to the 1930's, it changes to a 4:3 perspective to mimic the style things were filmed back in the day. While this historical nod is excellent, I wish the entirety was in widescreen. Anderson's films are very detailed and the scenes are filled with amazing detail; With this I feel that Anderson almost does his own film a disservice by cutting off and making the aspect ratio as it is. Also, some mild obscenities (played for laughs, and are indeed quite funny and help to characterize villains) may seem too weirdly out of place to really be funny for some.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a treat. For the eyes, for the ears, and also for the heart. The relationship that sprouts between M. Gustave and Zero Mustafa are some of the most believable and endearing moments of any of his films, as well as any new films I've seen of late. The story is original, the music is wonderful, the acting and script is typical Anderson; everything about The Grand Budapest Hotel sings. If you don't take my word for it, consider that the theater filled with middle aged and older audience members was laughing out loud constantly and finished the film with a lively round of applause.
Thank God for Wes Anderson, one of the only original artists left in Hollywood.
EDIT: I just saw it again in an off campus arts theater, and I loved it just as much (if not more) the second time. The humor is so quick and snappy the jokes never get old, and the great themes and story really resonate a second time through. Absolutely a fantastic film.
Writers and concierges are at the center of director Wes Anderson's nostalgic film, "The Grand Budapest Hotel". Most of the film is set an a large, pink facaded, luxurious hotel, the Grand Budapest, on mountain peaks in a fictitious European country, Zubrowka, during the years leading up to WW II. When the film opens, the hotel has fallen upon hard times with only lonely writers and intellectuals as patrons in a quest for solitude. One of the hotel's few patrons, a visiting novelist, strikes up a conversation with a mysterious individual who proves to be the hotel owner and a long yarn unfolds. The film features three generations of concierges, the young man on duty when the story begins, the primary character and the concierge during the time of most of the story, Monsieur Gustav H, (Ralph Fiennes), and his young refuge protégé and eventual owner of the Grand Budapest, Zero Moustapha (Tony Revolon as a boy, F. Murray Abraham as an elderly man).
The plot is a mixture of action and mayhem. Gustave H. is a suave successful concierge who manages to bed many of the elderly dowagers staying at the hotel. When one of these women dies under suspicious circumstances, she leaves Gustave a near-priceless painting while her family tries to frame Gustave for the murder. Gustave and Zero become fast friends and allies and try to protect and clear themselves. In the meanwhile, shadows of war cross Europe and the Grand Budapest Hotel.
The fast-paced plot has its light elements similar to the pastry concoctions which contribute a great deal to it. It has a distinctly nostalgic feel for a Europe which, as one character remarks, had already essentially disappeared at the time the action took place. The impending war is never far from the action in this movie, with storm troopers, death squads, and soldiers intervening and forming the course of the story at critical points. The film was shot in Germany and the staging and visual effects are lovely and the acting, particularly by the Fiennes highly in character for the time and place.
The end credits indicate that the film is based loosely on the life and work of the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881 -- 1942) Zweig was a thoroughly assimilated nonreligious Jew whose writings were highly popular before and during WW II. Beginning in 1933, Zweig travelled throughout the world on an Austrian passport. He never could quite bring himself to believe that the elegant, cosmopolitan world he loved had vanished. With the outbreak of WW II, a depressed broken Zweig ultimately settled in Brazil where he and his wife committed suicide in 1942.
An article by the French writer Anka Mahlstein in the May 8, 2014, New York Review of Books, discusses the revival of interest in Stefan Zweig as shown by a new biography and by "The Grand Budapest Hotel". Mahlstein sees Gustave H. (rather that the writer who narrates the film) as the Zweig-influenced character with what she aptly describes as "a trim little paintbrush mustache, shifty eyes and a supple grace to all his movements, comfortable mastery of all languages, a certain latitude in his sexual tastes, and an overall sense of calm broken here and there by glimmers of disquiet." As did Zweig, Gustave H. in the film falls victim to the end of a refined, elegant secure and learned culture. The fun and mayhem in the film has deeper hues and a strong sense of loss.
The film is a pleasure to see. It becomes more than a work of entertainment and glitz when seen in the context of the life of Stefan Zweig.
I went into this movie with mixed feelings. I'm rather impatient and do not watch that many movies. I had mixed feelings about, "The Royal Tenenbaums," mostly I did not like it. When this movie started I immediately thought of that movie and was about to turn it off, but stayed put for a few more minutes. I would say about 10 minutes in I became hooked and really liked it. At first it seems to be a rather slow pace and there are sections in which you think that you can "predict" the outcome, but I was really surprised. The characters really appealed to me and I would say it's a pretty good movie. I would even watch it a second time, which is saying a lot for me.
on March 23, 2015
Having spent my life in pursuit of the Best Action Flicks, I've Never seen any of Wes Anderson's work. A 'sheltered' life, I know, but me likes what me likes - Ordered a DVD of The Grand Budapest Hotel out of sheer curiosity & watched it this last Saturday - It developed further curiosity & wonder-ment, so watched it again Sunday - Fascinating piece - Loved the Colors & 'Feel' of each scene & wondered about the detail of them all being so perfectly Centered on the screen - Think I 'got' the point of this little presentation of Lives, but if I 'didn't', found it entertaining & enjoyable. I am reminded of a line from a Carly Smith song (from Foxfeather's "Foul Moon" CD) I heard recently, "People don't create Art, it's the other way around..." Laaaa-ter, JFJ
on July 23, 2014
In a way, we humans are actually quite fortunate = even though we have a knack for often getting ourselves into seemingly intractable/ belligerent predicaments (for nearly our entire history Living on Earth) => we have also uncannily developed ample means of momentary slippery escape (or at least temporary respite) thru Music, Dreams and Irreverent Comedy: Thank you Wes Anderson for providing temporary escape method #3, in the form of "The Grand Budapest Hotel"!
I can't help but keep thinking (after watching this slightly deranged, but gloriously entertaining outing) that a perfect alternate title would have been: "Monty Python's Motel of multiplied Mirth (where pets, even dead parrots, are mostly Welcome!)"
Yes, Wes Anderson = purveyor of highly eccentric but also insightful dramatic-Comedies abundantly peopled with Left-of-center/ excessively off-kilter but still intriguingly charismatic characters (that you can't help but root for, even if not fully understanding their bewildering inner motivations!) W. Anderson must clearly also be a most avid Monty Python fan - since this film is filled-to the brims & rafters with that uniquely bizarre, mind-bending, European-British-Budapestian brand of clever but irreverent humoresque!
Beyond the humorously engaging performances (Ralph Fiennes provides a 'master-Class' in impeccable comic-timing) and a highly talented `cast of Thousands' (or at least a dozen prominent thespians in vital cameo roles) ==> there is an amazingly authentic and colorfully vibrant & bizarrely Cool 1930's European Art-Deco `Look' to this Film! (one that definitely appeals to our inner Creative imaginations!)
Also of interest is that, this is another in a slew of newer films made at the famed/historic `Babelsberg' Studios*
Note*: one of the most `visionary' Cinematic masterpieces of All Time ="Metropolis" was filmed there 87 years ago - and more recently, "The Book Thief' `V for Vendetta' `Inglorious Basterds' `Cloud Atlas' `Valkyrie' and `Bourne Ultimatum' were filmed there!
In any Event, if you are searching for an imaginatively humorous and irreverent temporary `escape/respite' from the downbeat News-stories of reinvigorated "Cold' and hot wars around our modern Globe (and if you've already seen all the old Monty Python episodes, at least 3 times each) = then book yourself a room at the one and only "Grand Budapest Hotel" (to unwind with a funny, quirky and perhaps even thrillingly bizarre stay of your own!)
on October 3, 2014
A magnificent new world is, once again, created by magician Wes Anderson. This film had me from the start, with Anderson's usual display of controlled insanity, and this MUST be his best achievement. Anderson has his own regular crew of stock performers (Murray, Balaban, Schwartzman, Swinton, Keitel, etc). Add to this the lead character, Gustav, impeccably and totally portrayed by the masterful Ralph Fiennes. I haven't been as impressed in many years.
Special mention should go to Tony Revolori, perhaps the best straight-man, while holding his own.
Anderson's manic narrative is never slow, and some of his stock characteristics are ever-present. I haven't had such a good ride in years, not to mention the downhill sled-ride.
Brilliantly written, edited and executed, not to mention excellent tongue-in-cheek performances from all of the supporting characters, this is my favorite film of the last few years.
Unfortunately, it was released too early in the year to be given serious Oscar contention, but, awards aside, I can't recommend this film highly enough. Fiennes should be nominated, as should Anderson and Best Picture.
UPDATE: Lots of Oscar noms and wins. Deserved more. My fave film of 2014.
on January 3, 2015
Different, Quirky and entertaining - I was in the mood for something different. Enjoyed the story line and the unique manner in which in was related. Husband liked it more than I did which really surprised me.
on February 25, 2015
I bought this movie at the request of my son and because I did not want to watch it in the movie theater. I thought it would be one of those simple, silly ... boring movies and I would dread every moment of it. Wow... was I Wrong... so very wrong!! This is a masterpiece of fun, intelligence, wit and joy! I love this movie and I love watching it again and again! Each character has a rich full spirit and you cannot help but falling in love all of their wonderful, rich, loveable qualities