Wednesday, June 04, 2014

FILM REVIEW: The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is actually the first major motion picture released in 2014 that I have seen in a movie theater this year. I saw it at one of my favorite movie theaters in the country, the AMC Courthouse theaters in Arlington, VA, when I was visiting Washington, D.C. this spring. We saw the new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel at the suggestion of one of my former co-workers. I have seen some of Anderson's previous work (The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Royal Tenenbaums) but wouldn't call myself a fan of his work. The films I have seen of his seem quite odd and a bit of an acquired taste, like tofu, snails or smelly cheeses.

In fact The Grand Budapest Hotel has a lot in common with unusual European delicacies in  the sense that it is a bit of a European delicacy itself, with the complicated associations that description entails.

The central character of the film is Monsieur Gustave, the Maitre'd of the Grand Budapest Hotel played by Ralph Fiennes. The story is told in retrospect by Zero Moustafa (played as an old man by Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham and as a youngster by newcomer Tony Revolori) to a writer played by Jude Law. The primary plot is about the will of an old heiress (played by Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton) with a major sub-plot the 'first love' romance between Zero and Agatha (played by Saoirse Ronan). The heiress has a nephew(?) played by Oscar-winner Adrien Brody who expected to be the sole recipient of the will and when he discovers this is not the case, he sets his menacing henchman Willem Dafoe to harass everyone who stands in the way of his inheritance. The first person to disappear is the executor of the will (played by Jeff Goldblum) and soon there is delightfully insane chase by Dafoe of Revolori and Fiennes through the fictional European country's Alpine landscape.

Fiennes actually goes to prison as a result of the worsening political landscape in our fictional European country as it approaches war. A Nazi "ZZ" officer played by Edward Norton arrests Fiennes him while he's on a train even though he has called on the International Brotherhood of Concierges to help him escape a seemingly impossible situation. More Anderson regulars (Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jason Scwartzman and Owen Wilson) make an appearance, especially during the inevitable jail break sequence which is ingeniously plotted and bumblingly executed.

Overall, The Grand Budapest Hotel is an amusing diversion, quite different from your typical summer movie fare and well worth your time. It is fun and funny and a feast for the eyes.
Title: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Director: Wes Anderson.
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence.
Release Date: March 28, 2014.
Viewing Date: April 6, 2014.

Writing: A.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A+.
Impact: A-.

Overall Grade: A (4.0/4.0)

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