Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

The one thing that I'm trying to do this year more so than last year is to branch out and see films I normally wouldn't see. More often than naught, I usually stick with what I know I'm going to like and, generally speaking, I'm pretty satisfied with what I see. But this year, I want to strive out and see movies that I generally wouldn't see. I saw Nymphomaniac Vol. 1, and I'm going to be seeing The Purge: Anarchy when it comes out provided my schedule isn't booked. So adding onto the list of "Movies I'd Never See" is The Grand Budapest Hotel, a W.S Anderson movie that has been getting glowing reviews since it had a limited release in the beginning of March. It finally had a wide release this weekend, so I gave it a look see.

Our story revolves around an author who is writing a story based on a man that he met at a hotel called the Grand Budapest. The man in question, Zero Moustafa, is the owner of the Budapest, and has a very eclectic history with the hotel. Zero describes an adventure that he went on when he was a lobby boy there with his boss, Monsieur Gustave. The adventure includes romance, conspiracies, swindling little old ladies, monks on trolleys, a secret league of hotel concierges, and delicate pastries. This entire adventure revolves around a famous and beautiful painting called Boy With Apple and the significance of it to Gustave and Zero.

While it may not really be apparent, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a very witty comedy with most, if not all the characters, being fast talking intellectuals and having bizarre circumstances happen to them. This is the kind of movie where a man's cat gets thrown out the window, he runs to the window, sees the bloody splatter of his dead cat, then when he leave he receives a bad with the dead cat in it. Gruesome? Yes. Funny? Undeniably. The movie isn't just full of dark humor though. The movie is a mix between visual gags, gruesome death scenes, puns, and dry English wit. Essentially this movie is what would happen if you take a BBC show like Blackadder and gave it the production values of a Hollywood movie. I'm a fan of BBC comedies, so this works out fine by me.

It's an odd comedy to say the least
Here's how you'll know if this is your kind of movie. The theatre I saw it in was mostly filled with people in their late forties, early fifties. The style is very sharp and angular, with shots being almost deliberate and a feel that each shot mattered and took hours to arrange just right. If you're a nut for cinematography, this movie will be your Shangri-La. I'm not usually blown away by how a film is shot, but this movie blew my mind and looked absolutely beautiful. There are several zoomed out sequences that seem fake and are done entirely with elaborate models, but it's fine because they just looked so damn good. To say this movie is artistic is an understatement. This movie is for people who like older British humor, cinematography, and art films. If any of those three appeal to you, then  implore you to see this movie. 

It may come across now that I like this movie quite a bit, and while I do think that The Grand Budapest Hotel is a good movie, I wouldn't say it was anything revolutionary or defining. The praise given to this movie has been overwhelmingly positive, but I don't see anything so, for lack of a better word, grand about it. It's shot very nicely and has a good plot, but other than that I find the film to be surprisingly forgettable. None of the jokes really stood out to me because it was essentially dry British humor. The more visual jokes landed much better than the wit of this film, but the wit is the crux of the humor here. Gustave is a smart, fast talking concierge, and that's really the whole appeal of his jokes. He's smarter than everyone else, so he can talk like he knows what he's doing and that's funny because he describes the most unusual circumstances as if they were everyday occurrences. Yeah he's funny, but I can't remember anything he said that WAS funny. 

God this movie is shot beautifully!!!
The biggest crime of the movie though is that it feels like there's a significant chunk of the movie missing. By that I don't mean that the movie is too short and could have gone on for longer, because length is usually a very arbitrary way to criticize a movie. It's as long as it needs to be, for better or worse. Here, Budapest has the problem of its framing device causing all of the problems. The movie is told as a flashback as narrated by Zero in 1968, but that story on how the author met Zero is narrated by the author in 1985, which is being read by someone who is reading the author's book in 2013. So, to put it in another way, the movie starts out with a woman reading the author's book, then goes to the author explain how the book came to be and how he wrote it, the flashing back to how the author met Zero, who then explains the story in his flashback. It's a retelling of Zero's autobiography through an interview, then translated into book form. If it sounds confusing, it kind of is. 

The problem lies with the framing device. I can understand if the author (and yes that is his name, the character's name is just the author) met Zero and Zero explained his story with the movie ending with the author beginning to write the book, but because we have two extra time periods it just feels like the movie is missing pieces from those parts. 1985 and 2013 are included only at the beginning and the end of the movie. They don't interfere with the plot in the slightest and are just there to be bookends to Zero's story. I can understand if the point was to show how a person's story can change over time and show how people can influence other people to do great things, which is a theme of the movie, but the extra time periods just make me think that the movie is trying to say something important, but you have no idea what it means. What was the point behind the bookends of the two extra time periods?

Large rant aside, I did like The Grand Budapest Hotel and I think it's a good movie. It's too soon to tell how much of an impact it will have, but it's a solid, good movie. It's shot beautifully, but it's problems come in the form of how it feels like there's something missing. If a director's cut comes down the line that has an extra half hour of footage, I wouldn't be too surprised and I'd probably go see it again just to see if I can get the full story. Bottom line, if you like W.S Anderson and BBC comedies, you'll go nuts for this movie. For everyone else, I say maybe give it a look, since you'll probably find something here that you may like. I personally thought it was good, but it had just enough problems to stop from giving it a perfect score. I give The Grand Budapest Hotel a 4 out of 5. 


Next time, something not so intellectually stimulating. Next time, fart jokes.

No comments:

Post a Comment