Friday, March 7, 2014

Four Stars (and Counting) for 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Mentor (Ralph Fiennes) and mentee (Tony Revolori) at work in swanky surroundings in "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Photos from Fox Searchlight Pictures.

IT is somehow fitting that so soon after the Academy Awards that the movie-going public should be treated to a really good film.

For the viewing pleasure is Wes Anderson's “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The film opens today in the United Kingdom, as well as a handful of theaters in Los Angeles and New York. It opened yesterday in Germany. On 14 March, it rolls out in other major cities in the United States and Canada.

Sweeping in scope and scale, “The Grand Budapest Hotel" recounts the adventures of one M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge of the first order plying his trade at an Eastern European Hotel of the first order before the outbreak of Word War II. It was filmed in Germany and the UK. (See video below.)

In typical WA fashion, the story is multi-layered rather than convoluted. WA does not do convoluted, he only does multi-layered. The film opens in the present day with a young girl who has been reading a chapter in the memoir of a character only identified as The Author (Tim Wilkinson). The chapter recounts a visit he made to the Grand Budapest Hotel in the 60s. While there, he met the owner Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) who gave him an earful about his former august lodging house.

Here is where the action starts as Zero recalls how he met M. Gustave, his training as a lobby boy and how he assisted his mentor in clearing his name after the former is accused of murder. In the interim, there is a murder investigation, murder charge, murder trial, will-reading, cross-country chases, death threats, prison break, police pursuit and sundry other incidents, accidents and mishaps.

To bring these droll, madcap, thoroughly entertaining proceedings to pass, WA assembles a cast of the first order. In process, he also delivers a film that is more at home in the Golden Age of Hollywood than in this mad, modern digital age. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a wonderful patchwork that combines elements of WA's previous works – a staple of his – particularly “The Darjeeling Limited” and his best work to date, “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

It also has as kindred spirits the best of “The Great Race,” “The Three Stooges” and “Keystone Cops” films.

Half the fun of watching “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which was the opening night film of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival last month and which won the festival's Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear award, is watching some of the finest actors in the business do their thing. WA smartly has them work within their range of comedy. To that end, for example, Harvey Keitel is not awkward as prison inmate Ludwig.

Indeed, another WA staple is assembling top talent. Perennials Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are checked in, along with semi-regulars and newbies F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton.

M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and his bevy of blondes holed up at “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” arguably boasts one of the best all-star comedy casts in filmdom. It ranks right up there with “The Pink Panther,” “Blazing Saddles” and “It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” As for sheer star power, it ranks with another film – a drama – about a great hotel, “The Grand Hotel.”

Looking for a place to stay for an hour and a half or so? Then, check into “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is rated R for language, some sexual content and violence; visit to learn more about the film.

1 comment :

  1. Anderson's focus on oddball humor, audaciously eloquent dialogue, and cartoonish absurdity remains central and doesn't get derailed by the overly forced attempts at familial pathos that have marred some of his other films.


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