Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Case for Room Service

The Grand Budapest Hotel, the latest film from Wes Anderson, is another mildly insane masterpiece.

For no real reason, it starts in the present, goes back 10 years, then goes back about 20 years, then all the way back to the 1930s where Ralph Feinnes plays Monsieur Gustav, head of the hotel at the height of its grandeur, and from there the story really gets underway.

And it’s a story full of colour, from the bright purple decorations of the hotel itself, to the wild and whacky characters that inhabit this fictional eastern European country.  Gustav finds himself in the middle of an inheritance squabble and from there on the run from the police and the military as war begins.  Along for this ride, and brought into the fray, is Gustav’s newly employed Lobby Boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), who tells Gustav’s story to a novelist, who is recalling how he wrote the novel based on this encounter, which is all being read by a young fan sitting under a statue of the novelist.

Feinnes has a blast as M Gustav, a bit of a dandy who is a hit with the ladies and loves his propriety and poetry.  His hotel is a well run machine, as are all hotels in this country it appears, with not a Basil Fawlty in sight.  But those in sight include an amazing array of actors, including Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe… and a whole host of others I may not have noticed amongst all the scenery.

Having seen the preview of the movie several times, I was surprised when Tilda Swinton, covered in impressive ageing makeup as a wealthy lover of Gustav, got almost as much screen time as Saoirse Ronan as the Lobby Boy’s love interest and assistant in their attempt to clear their names.  But that is mainly because Gustav is the focus of the story even if it is the Lobby Boy recalling the story, and the Lobby Boy and his own story therefore takes a back seat to the driver in the front.

And it is lots of fun.  From the animated action sequences and the changing garb of the hotel, everything is crafted with love if not necessarily with a huge budget.  The actors all seem to be having a brilliant time, and it mostly rolls along with an easy charm and a light air, so it’s a little bit shocking when, from time to time, a graphic image or act of violence pops up on the screen.  Indeed, these were so unexpected that I could hear audible gasps from some of the members of the audience with more delicate sensibilities. 

But overall, it was a resounding success with all my fellow watchers.  The others were more convinced that The Grand Budapest Hotel was a better film than Anderson’s last film, Moonrise Kingdom, though I was not so sure.  Nonetheless, it was still a very funny, witty and entertaining film and well worth the wait and anticipation.

Verdict: The Grand Budapest Hotel is a brilliant film, filled with great performances, sparkling dialogue, whimsical music and wonderful cinematography.  So really, it is pretty brilliant, though I have to admit, considering the film’s quirkiness, it will not be to everyone’s taste. But for me, definitely 4.5 hotel stars out of 5.


Kiwi in Zurich said...

Judge, do you mean 4.5 out of 10 or 4.5 out of 5?

R said...

Gah - you are right! It will be changed!

Kiwi in Zurich said...

I just saw it on the plane and was surprised by the blow-job scene. I wasn't sure I had seen what I had seen, and advantage of the plane is that I could go back over it again...and heck it was what I thought. It reminds me of Moulin Rouge somehow.