MOVIE REVIEW: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand_Budapest_HotelIn the first scene of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a young woman or girl walks through a cemetery, and I realize “She looks like a Wes Anderson character.” Is it the sensible shoes, or the way she walked? Not sure. Strange, because I had only seen two earlier Anderson films, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), which I did not love, and Moonrise Kingdom (2012), which I enjoyed greatly.

This is “The adventures of Gustave H [Ralph Fiennes] , a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero [newcomer Tony Revolori], the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend” during a period when the world is rapidly changing. The tale is told by Mr. Moustafa [F. Murray Abraham], owner of the title structure. It’s cleverly oddball screwball comedy caper, yet melancholy tale of murder, theft, and love.

It’s so well made that one forgets how much skill is involved. It includes some stop-motion animation bits which I can only imagine would be diminished on home video. I laughed aloud more than a few times, almost all in the second half.

I rather liked this summary from James Berardinelli of ReelViews: “It offers an engaging 90+ minutes of unconventional, comedy-tinged adventure that references numerous classic movies while developing a style and narrative approach all its own.” Some elements of homage, yet its own film.

LOTS of familiar faces in the large cast, well used. Special props to Tilda Swinton, who plays an 84-year-old woman. My friend Steve Bissette noted that the highlights for him “included Willem Dafoe’s monstrous boogeyman/family hit man and Harvey Keitel’s appearance.”

He called the film an “absurdist faux-continental adventure and among Anderson’s most entertaining confections (and that’s saying a lot), with the usual precocity those who don’t enjoy Anderson’s work will revile and those of us who do savor.”

This was one of those exceedingly rare times we went out on a Friday night, to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, and actually saw at least five people we knew, two in that very showing. So people really DO go out on date night. I never knew…
I read a review of someone recently seeing Frozen. The reviewer wondered “Why on earth did this movie become a cultural touchstone?… It just wasn’t nearly as fantastic as people have made it out to be…” Then she answers her own question: “I suspect I would have enjoyed it much more if I hadn’t gone into watching it with the knowledge that it has become so popular. I was expecting a lot more, and I think high expectations kind of ruined it for me.” I totally agree, And if she aw it on video, rather than in the theater – I don’t know – THAT would be significantly important in a first viewing.

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