Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric
Director: Wes Anderson
Screenplay: Wes Anderson
Comedy/Drama, Rated: R
Running Time: 100 minutes
Release Date: March 28, 2014
Gustave/Zero: Duo, P-PP Emotional, Pro (Classic Hero/Sidekick)
Dmitri/Jopling: Duo, N-N Moral, Ant (Mastermind/Henchman Villains)
Greg, are you Hungary to review The Grand Budapest Hotel?
You keep pestering me to do it, so let’s recap!
The movie begins with a young girl admiring a statue of a man simply known as ‘The Author.’ She begins reading one of his books that describes a trip he made in 1968 to the Grand Budapest Hotel. At that time the drab, outdated hotel attracted very few customers. During his stay, the Author (Jude Law) encounters the owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who is anxious to tell his story of how he came to own the Grand Budapest.
That causes another flashback to 1932 where a young Zero is taken under the wing of concierge extraordinaire M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Gustave is quite the lady’s man – if by lady you mean elderly widow. One of his “friends” has died and left him a fortune in the form of a priceless painting Boy with Apple. However, the children of the deceased are not willing to let the painting go that easily. They frame Gustave and he escapes from prison. Now the chase is on as Gustave and Zero are on a mission to clear his name and recover the painting.
Greg, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a strange movie about strange people. The movie tells the story of a man, Gustave, who is overly polite and loquacious in situations that call for neither quality. Gustave is a mentor figure for a young lobby boy named Zero who appears incapable of showing any facial expressions. The duo get caught up in a dangerous plot with many other equally strange people, each of whom has some quirky or menacing mannerism.
Wes Anderson-world is stylistically surreal and cartoon-like. Pastel colors tend to dominate and actors are instructed to master the art of nonverbal minimalism with their bodies, faces, and movements. There seems to be an exaggerated attempt to create and nurture caricatures of people and situations. Sometimes the effect is comical; at other times it is merely odd. If the goal was to make the movie sets and characters memorable, in a way that a bottle of Pepto-Bismol is memorable, then the goal has been achieved.
I enjoyed Budapest very much. Wes Anderson always delivers an experience that you won’t find in other films. Last year’s Moonlight Kingdom was another standout movie by Anderson. The characters are always likable and innocent in their own way.
If I have a complaint about Budapest it is that it dragged on in the second act. The film clocks in at just 100 minutes, but it felt like much longer. Another complaint was the appearance of too many cameos. There is a hotel shootout that had so many luminaries pop into frame that I was distracted from the story.
Ironically, within a movie that is as unconventional as a movie can get, we have a rather conventional hero-sidekick combination. This is not to say that these dual heroes are uninteresting. Far from it, in fact. Gustave does a fair amount of mentoring of Zero, who grows from a youthful innocent boy into an informed and experienced young man. Gustave relishes his role as a mentor to Zero, and while I’m not sure that Gustave changes much during the course of the movie, he certainly has plenty of heroic traits. In fact, he dies performing an act of self-sacrifice.
I agree, Scott. In our book on heroes in the movies Reel Heroes: Volume 1 we lay out the Hero/Sidekick as one of the types of duo-heroes. Gustave and Zero play this pattern to full force. Zero knows nothing of the world of hotels yet Gustave feels sorry for the boy because he is a refugee. Here, the hero is the mentor to the young man whom we care about because of his innocence and underdog status.
The story if rife with villains as well. We meet the eldest son of the widow, Dmitri (Adrien Brody) who is intent on having the painting for his own. I was pleased with the coloring of Dmitri. He is a vile man and we get a bit of his backstory as the scorned son of Madame D.
Dmitri enlists the aid of a diabolical and evil henchman named Jopling (Willem Dafoe) who has steel teeth and wears rings that double as brass knuckles. While we don’t get a lot of backstory on Jopling, he demonstrates his villainy with the many killings and maiming of characters in the story.
The two main villains are a detestable pair for different reasons – Dmitri for his loathsome greed and Jopling for his psychopathic brutality. The movie doesn’t delve into the details of these two villains’ histories or life stories. These bad guys exist mainly to provide a grave challenge to Gustave and Zero.
It’s interesting how movies often pack their villains with a familiar one-two punch. The main villain is often the mastermind of the operation, and the secondary villain(s) are usually the muscle who carry out the physical dirty work. This split-structure of villainy represents a departure from the more unified structure of the hero, who in order to succeed must possess both brains and brawn.
Scott, I enjoyed myself at The Grand Budapest Hotel and could find myself going back for a second visit. The characters were colorful and unique. While it was a bit slow in places, the film held my interest for most of the time. I give Budapest 4 out of 5 Reels.
The heroes in this story were likable, even affable. I enjoyed watching M. Gustave’s growing fondness for Zero and Zero’s growth under Gustave’s tutelage. I give the hero-pair 4 out of 5 Heroes.
The villains were more complete in this film compared to others we’ve reviewed so far this year. However that isn’t saying much. Still, they were stereotypes of villains gone by as the estranged son and his henchman. I give these evil-doers just 3 out of 5 Villains.
The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t a great movie but it has an endearing and quirky charm that gives it lasting appeal. I give Wes Anderson lots of credit here. After all, “strange” doesn’t always mean memorable, but here it does because of Gustave’s unique combination of charm, courage, and quirkiness, and also because the film tosses out a look and feel that I’ve never seen before. Like you, I’ll award The Grand Budapest Hotel 4 Reels out of 5.
As I’ve mentioned the hero duo of Gustave and Zero doesn’t break much new ground, but I have to admire the transformation of Zero, who learns many life lessons from Gustave, not the least of which is loyalty. This is the trait that inspires Zero to hang onto the hotel decades after any rational person might do so. This hero pair earns a solid 3 Heroes out of 5.
In keeping with the rest of the movie, the villains were an odd pair that movie audiences love to hate. This mastermind-muscle pairing was effective although their characters were not as developed as they could have been. For the same reasons as you, Greg, I give them 3 Villains out of 5.