Thursday, March 27, 2014

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

Written & Directed by Wes Anderson



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. March 17, 2014  5:30 PM


"The Grand Budapest Hotel", the latest by writer/director Wes Anderson, is a rich and creamy confection filled with gorgeously detailed production design and charming offbeat film actors sprinkled throughout. And just like a sugary treat, while you may enjoy all of the brief, pleasurable sensations that "The Grand Budapest Hotel" may bring, it will still leave you hungry for a complete meal.

If you are at all familiar with the work of Mr. Anderson, then you'll know that there tends to be more of a stronger emphasis on whimsical style than substance. And that's perfectly fine as this gifted director knows exactly what he's doing. His fixated attention to the finest of details makes his films delightful little treasures. Now, if this were, say twenty minutes long, the film would be perfect but stretched out at closer to two hours, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" over stays it's welcome.

The film begins in the present day with the unnamed writer (played by Tom Wilkinson) of a book recalling his time spent at The Grand Budapest in the 1960's. We soon see the author as a younger man (Jude Law) as he meets Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the current owner of the faded hotel and tells him the fascinating tale of how he became the proprietor.

Our main story takes place in the 1930's right on the verge of an impending global war. At this time, Zero (now played by Tony Revolori) was an eager, new bus boy at the hotel. He's greeted at first with disdain from M. Gustave H (an excellent Ralph Fiennes), the haughty concierge of this grand palace in the heart of the fictional European city of Zubrowka. But soon Zero becomes the concierge's protege and confidant. Although sexually ambiguous, Gustave has made a habit of discretely seducing the elderly and quite wealthy female patrons who frequent the hotel. One of his long-time admirers is the eighty-four year old, Madame Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Tilda Swinton) and they spend a lovely, romantic time together during her stay.

A few days after she checks out, Madame D is found dead under suspicious circumstances. During the reading of the will, Gustave discovers he has inherited a valuable painting which outrages her son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody). With the help of Zero, Gustave sneaks the painting out and hides it at the hotel for safe keeping until the dust settles. However, Gustave is arrested and imprisoned for the murder of Madame D. The faithful Zero comes to the rescue as he delivers tiny cakes with tiny tools hidden inside to help the innocent Gustave and his new-found jailhouse buddies breakout of prison. Meanwhile, Dmitri sends his murderous henchman (Willem Dafoe) out to track down the painting.

Inspired by the writings of Austrian novelist, Stefan Zweig, Mr. Anderson has crafted a zany, romantic farce with narration that gives an impression, at times, of a twisted fairy tale. What truly helps keep the proceedings rolling merrily along is the fine cast of players which include Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan along with Mr. Anderson's regulars, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray (who has appeared in all of Anderson's films with the exception of his first) popping in for extended cameos. Because of his well-known work in intense dramas such as "Schindler's List", "The English Patient" and last year's "The Invisible Woman", Mr. Fiennes is not seen as much of a laugh riot but his marvelous work here should turn that idea on it's head. Wildly absurd yet highly charismatic, the actor is pure perfection as the bumbling concierge.

Regardless that this may not offer much more than scrumptious visual delights and the occasional comic zingers but due to Mr. Anderson's striking wit and sublime skills as a film maker, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a compelling film you should see.