Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is Stylish and Quirky, of course

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 17 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Running time:  99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, some sexual content and violence
DIRECTOR:  Wes Anderson
WRITERS:  Wes Anderson; from a story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness (inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig)
PRODUCERS:  Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, and Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Robert Yeoman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Barney Pilling
COMPOSER:  Alexandre Desplat
Academy Award winner

ADVENTURE/COMEDY/DRAMA with elements of fantasy

Starring:  Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Mathieu Amalric, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Bob Balaban, and Owen Wilson

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a 2014 comedy-drama and adventure film from writer-director Wes Anderson.  Anderson and Hugo Guinness, who wrote the film's story with Anderson, were inspired by the writings of Austrian, Stefan Sweig (1881-19420, a novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer.  The Grand Budapest Hotel focuses on the adventures of a legendary concierge at a famous hotel and the lobby boy who becomes his trusted sidekick.

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens in the present day, before moving back to 1985.  The film moves back again to the year 1968.  A man, known as “The Author” (Jude Law), travels to the Republic of Zubrowka (a fictional Central European state).  He stays at a remote mountainside hotel in the spa town of Nebelsbad.  The Author discovers that the Grand Budapest Hotel has fallen on hard times.  He meets the owner of the hotel, an elderly gentleman named Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham).  Moustafa tells “The Author” how he came to own the Grand Budapest Hotel.

That takes the story back to the year 1932, during the hotel's glory days.  Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) is the Grand Budapest Hotel's devoted concierge.  He manages the hotel's large staff and sees to the needs of the hotel's wealthy clientele,  Gustave also often has sexual relationships with some of the hotel's elderly female clientele.  One of the aging women who flock to the hotel to enjoy M. Gustave's “exceptional service” is Madame Céline Villeneuve "Madame D" Desgoffe und Taxis a.k.a. “Madame D” (Tilda Swinton).

After Madame D dies, M. Gustave discovers that she has left him something in her will, a highly-sought after painting by Johannes van Hoytl (the younger), entitled, “Boy With Apple.”  M. Gustave also learns that Madame D was murdered and that he is not only the chief suspect, but that he is also caught up in a dispute over a vast family fortune.  M. Gustave is in trouble, but luckily he has hired a most capable and talented new lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori).  M Gustave's most trusted friend and protege, Zero, may be the only one who can help a legendary concierge save himself.

I said that Ethan and Joel Coen's 2010 film, True Grit (a remake of the classic John Wayne western), was a movie in which the brothers got to work out and to employ their visual tics, cinematic style, and storytelling techniques on a Western.  It was a good film, but it was truly “a Coen Bros. movie.”

In a similar fashion, The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson employing everything that is eccentric, quirky, and unique to his films going back at least a decade.  Embodied in this movie, the Wes Anderson style is wonderful and invigorating and a joy to watch.  Truly, The Grand Budapest Hotel has a striking and an eye-catching visual style.  Anderson's mix of ornate visual environments and eccentric characters with deeply held emotions makes his movies hard to ignore, if you give them half the chance.

Those characters can be a problem, though.  For this film, Anderson easily offers 20 characters worth knowing, but other than M. Gustave and Zero, Anderson uses the others as quirky backdrops or as caricatures upon which he can hang his plot.  Thus, The Grand Budapest Hotel is beautiful, but depth of character is lacking.  The adventure of M. Gustave and Zero plays as if it were something straight out of a beloved children's book.  Much has been made of Ralph Fienne's performance in this film, and it is indeed a good one.  It must be noted that Tony Revolori as Zero is also quite good.  Still, the adventure of the two leads would be better with more interplay from the other characters than the film offers.  Adrien Brody's Dmitri Desgoffe und Taxis is wasted, and Willem Dafoe's J.G. Jopling is not so much a menacing villain as he is a bad guy straight out of Jay Ward Productions.

However, while this movie does not fail to burrow into the imagination, it does not really plant its roots in the viewers' hearts.  It is gorgeous on the surface, but Anderson seems to avoid the deeply emotional ideas he introduces, making The Grand Budapest Hotel an exceptional film, but keeping it from being truly great.  It is Wes Anderson art for Wes Anderson's art sake.

8 of 10

Friday, April 10, 2015

2015 Academy Awards, USA:  4 wins: “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Milena Canonero), “Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling” (Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier), “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Alexandre Desplat) and “Best Achievement in Production Design” (Adam Stockhausen-production design and Anna Pinnock-set decoration); 5 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven M. Rales, and Jeremy Dawson), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Wes Anderson), “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Robert D. Yeoman), and “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Barney Pilling), and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Wes Anderson-screenplay/story and Hugo Guinness-story)

2015 BAFTA Awards:  5 wins: “Best Original Music” (Alexandre Desplat), “Best Costume Design” (Milena Canonero), “Best Production Design” (Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock), “Best Original Screenplay” (Wes Anderson), and “Best Make Up & Hair” (Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier); 6 nominations: “Best Film” (Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven M. Rales, and Jeremy Dawson), “Best Leading Actor” (Ralph Fiennes), “Best Cinematography” (Robert D. Yeoman), “Best Editing” (Barney Pilling), “Best Sound” (Wayne Lemmer, Christopher Scarabosio, Pawel Wdowczak), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Wes Anderson)

2015 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical;” 3 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Wes Anderson), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Ralph Fiennes), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Wes Anderson)

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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