“The Grand Budapest Hotel” review

I’m not much of a movie reviewer, but I couldn’t help myself with this one. There is an Alamo Drafthouse near my place, and we had a gift certificate, so we decided to make the trek and give the movie a chance.

I’m not a Wes Anderson fanboy, or wasn’t before this flick. I can say that I am now firmly rooted in the soil of his clever and sometimes ridiculous wit. We arrived early and were treated to a series of vintage cartoons and ordered a few snacks and adult beverages. I do not suggest ordering the Maker’s Mark shake with nutmeg. As divine as it sounds, it is the worst concoction of liquor and confection I’ve encountered. This is from a whiskey and bourbon snob with a weakness for whipped cream and chocolate.

As we settle into our seats, we make it through the cartoons and the movie starts with several Wes Anderson shorts. My favorite was the second where he spoofs himself and his penchant for using the same actors. Ed Norton plays Owen Wilson playing a character with Wilson’s signature, well, Wilson-ness. I love it when creators or creative types can poke fun at themselves.

The feature is based on the writings of Stefan Zweig, and focuses on the character of Gustave H. played by Ralph Fiennes. Gustave is a legendary concierge that is both a throwback to more decadent and honorable times, and a ladies/man’s man. Gustave is drenched in panache, and is the “caretaker” of many an elderly heiress. His performance is exceptional and somehow reserved, even though his character is known for his flamboyant tendencies. He displays the stereotypical British taste for understatement, and his tongue is biting and sharp. He runs the Grand Budapest with a perfumed and iron fist.

Gustave takes the young refugee Zero, played by Tony Revolori under his wing and shows him the ways of the Hotel. The duo embarks on a quest worthy of any classic movie, with the fate of the Hotel and millions of dollars in the balance.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is teeming with stars, who all play their parts elegantly, letting the writing and scenic vistas and locations take center stage. Willam Dafoe hardly says a word, but his presence is still an ominous one. Jude Law starts the film and wraps it up, and Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and  Bill Murray all make appearances.

I hate to give away any of the details of the plot of the movie away. The Grand Budapest Hotel deftly toes the line of splitting time, and balances the looming war that is beginning and makes the war somehow seem secondary to what is going on with Gustave and his protege.  What I will give away is that Gustave finds himself the heir of a fortune, and finds himself pitted against a family that is part Munsters, part Manson. Zero comes of age and picks up the mantle of his mentor, and the relationship between the two is a wonderful treat.

The true stars of the film are the aging hotel, and the writing. Wes Anderson is definitely funny, witty clever and all of that, but the majority of the laughs are tongue in cheek, or self-aware and borderline groan inducing. The humor is right up my alley though as a fan of 30 Rock, Community, Monty Python etc. There was one moment in the film where I thought the film was wrapping up loose ends and a poignant scene was setting up, and suddenly the entire theater erupted into laughter. Truly one of the funniest moments I’ve experienced in a theater.

The Grand Budapest is a delight and my favorite movie so far this year. I can see this making my top-ten list with more viewings in fact. It’s filled with rich and delicious nibbles. Layered and revealing something more delectable with each bite, the colors and locations leave you feeling more than satisfied. Watching the Grand Budapest Hotel leaves you with that gluttonous feeling you have at the end of Thanksgiving after you’ve gone back for a third plate, and then decide to push through and slice off that piece of pie with a scoop of ice cream. Then you collapse into a sugar coma.

This movie is certainly a must see, and my final rating is 9 out of ten.




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