Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

If there's one director working today who churns out consistently predictable material it's Wes Anderson. The master of quirky, crafty big screen diorama-films has a distinctive style that you either love or hate. I lean towards the love side of things but there have been a few duds recently (despite the fact that 2012's Moonrise Kingdom might be his best film). Anderson is at it again with a large all-star cast in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Anderson sets his latest film in the mountains of a fictional European country and chronicles the story of Zero (played in present day by the great F. Murray Abraham and in flashbacks (which span most of the film) by newcomer Tony Revolori ), a hotel Lobby Boy who gains the trust and dedication of eccentric hotel servant Gustave played by the delightfully mischievous Ralph Fiennes. Gustave and Zero get caught up in a caper spurned from the death of a wealthy elderly woman who had befriended Gustave. Throughout the adventure, Anderson unleashes a cast of characters from family members (Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton) to Nazi-esque police enforcers (Edward Norton) to general thug bounty hunters (the always menacing Willem Dafoe) to love interests (Atonement's Saoirse Ronan). Despite containing an extremely large roster of A-list talent, including Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and countless others, the movie is rather well paced. Everyone seems to be along for the ride and lets the chemistry between Fiennes and Revolori shine.

Unfortunately it seems that Wes Anderson is not wavering from his addiction to centered elements and long stationary camera pans. Scene after scene we get balanced, centered shots of the movie's characters. It's easy to tell right from the start that this is a Wes Anderson film and while most of his shots are beautiful to watch, it's all gotten a bit stale overall. While some of what we see borders on monotony, Fiennes helps add excitement to each and every scene he's in. He comes off as witty, charming and very personable with impeccable comedic timing. I'd argue that this is his best film performance since Schindler's List.

Overall this is an entertaining film for sure and one of Anderson's better films, but it feels a little full and bloated compared to top-notch Anderson creations like Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums. The movie is almost worth seeing for Fiennes' performance alone. I hope he continues to pursue some more comedic roles as I really never knew he had this type of humor in him. A lukewarm 3 out of 5 JRs for The Grand Budapest Hotel. You should really wait for video/rental with this one unless you're a major Wes Anderson fan. I'd really like to see Anderson branch out slightly from his quirky predictable ways, but I feel that will never happen.

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