The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Synopsis: The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

For more info and to watch the trailer, click here:

Who chose it: Leah

Why I chose it: I’ve always wanted to see a Wes Anderson film and this one featured nonstop hilarity, a colorful backdrop, and a handful of my favorite actors. Which, I guess, could be features of any Wes Anderson film- but I also recalled all of the Oscar buzz that this one received when it came out.

Leah’s Review:

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a story within a story. We are introduced to “The Author” of the story of the same name at the very beginning of the film- but the storyteller is ultimately Zero Moustafa, the once poor bellboy and the now owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel (who relays the story of how he came to own the hotel to “The Author”). The movie never wastes any time, and we are quickly thrown into the story of M. Gustave, the hotel’s most remarkable concierge. Gustave take Zero the bellboy under his wing, teaching him everything he knows. This relationship becomes important as Gustave gets involved in a situation involving his lover’s inheritance and her possessive, psychopathic family.

The pacing of “Grand Budapest” is what makes the film work so well. The plot advances so quickly that you’re never bored- but the exposition helps the viewer not to get completely lost. There’s a large cast of characters, but each one is so distinct and memorable that you never get hung up on who’s who. The fast pace of the movie combined with the quick and witty script makes for a delightful and entertaining viewing experience (the comedic timing often reminded me of that of the classic “Pink Panther” films). The story is quirky, heartfelt, often ridiculous, but never feels ham-fisted. It’s escapism at its best.

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the film is its vibrant color schemes. There is a specific color palette for nearly every scene and, coupled with the movies’ numerous wide shots, this makes the watching experience more akin to viewing a great piece of artwork. Often, the palettes are composed of complementary colors (the most noticeable being the orange-ish backdrop of the hotel itself with the purple uniforms of the employees) which really make every shot stand out on its own.

The movie’s often absurd characters would not be able to come to life without the brilliant performers behind them. There’s a handful of actors that are broadly recognizable, even if they are only on the screen for a few scenes- who make sure that their characters are not forgotten. Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, and of course Bill Murray (who is a regular in Wes Anderson films) are all fantastic in their respective roles. Then-newcomer, Tony Revolori shines in his role as young Zero (with the talented F. Murray Abraham as his adult counterpart). And I can’t not mention Ralph Fiennes who I am now certain can play any character convincingly- from the heartless and ruthless Amon Goth in “Schindler’s List” to the hilarious and ridiculous M. Gustave.

I had high hopes for “Grand Budapest” when we made our list for the year- and I was not disappointed. It’s definitely one of my favorite films we’ve seen so far and I look forward to watching it again as well as the next Wes Anderson film on our list.

Brent’s Review:

Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a wet sponge, by which I mean it is incredibly dense. I could wrap both hands around it, twist it again and again, and yet I believe I would not be able to fully wring out everything from this film.

I will confess that, including this, I’ve only seen two Wes Anderson films – the other being “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” which was a bit of a letdown for me. I didn’t have exceedingly high hopes for this film. It looked intriguing, but “maybe,” I thought. “Maybe Wes Anderson is a type of quirky that I just don’t get.”

Not so. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a fire hydrant. The costume design, score, and production design are all fantastic (all won Oscars in their respective categories). The acting is pitch perfect and well-cast, even if the cast really features Wes Anderson’s usual cast of regulars (Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Ed Norton, and many more). The plot, too, is even ridiculous: a famous concierge at the titular hotel inherits a priceless painting from a widow whose heart he won years after her husband’s passing. One catch: her children are psychopaths and want the painting for themselves. The concierge – the famed M. Gustave – steals the painting with the aid of his immigrant lobby boy, Zero Moustafa.

For me, the difference between “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Life Aquatic” is pacing. “Grand Budapest” is a flurry of jokes, some of which are hidden in the artwork in the background and others of which are hidden in a glance between characters. Some might call the comedy quirky; I would call it subtle.

The film begins at a breakneck pace as it introduces the primary plot device: a story over dinner between the older Zero Moustafa and a guest at the now-rundown Grand Budapest. The first chapter moves so swiftly that it might trample you if you’re not invested from frame one, but once you catch up you will find much to enjoy.

I will confess, however, that I found myself trying to convince myself of disappointment midway through the film. “This is a comedy, right?” I asked myself. “You should be laughing out loud a lot more than you are.” As soon as I became aware of this thought, I realized that I’d been grinning like an idiot for the better part of the last hour. “Grand Budapest” is whimsical – you’re not likely to bust a gut, but your cheeks will feel the burn.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” relies on a layered approach to both storytelling and comedy. Indeed, the drawn landscapes in the film are just as beautiful as the painting the protagonists steal. I am going to use a cop-out and suggest that my difficulty in finding the best words to describe this film relies on its own reliance on visuals to propel the story. I guess you’ll just have to see this movie to know what I’m talking about.

Up Next: We’ll be traveling to the theater to see Christopher Nolan’s newest film, “Dunkirk.”

Peace out, kids.


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