Jamie Kennedy's favorite movie review site
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.62%
Just Average: 2.7%
Pretty Crappy: 21.62%
Sucks: 2.7%

4 reviews, 13 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Come Play by Peter Sobczynski

Blind Fury by Jack Sommersby

Craft, The: Legacy by Peter Sobczynski

Forbidden World by Jack Sommersby

Joysticks by Jack Sommersby

Exterminator/Exterminator 2, The by Jack Sommersby

Doorman, The (2020) by Jay Seaver

Postmortem by Jack Sommersby

Warrior and the Sorceress, The by Jack Sommersby

Come True by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Grand Budapest Hotel, The
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"Checkout Time For An Era"
5 stars

One of the recurring visual elements on display in Wes Anderson's latest film, "The Grand Budapest Hotel," are the astonishing confections created in the kitchen of Mendl's Patisserie, an array of cakes, pastries and petit fours of such overwhelming beauty and delicacy that they look like a child's ultimate dessert fantasy brought to life. And yet, despite appearing so stylized that it seems impossible that they could have anything in the way of substance to them, they prove to have a weight and importance that belies their lighter-than-air appearance. Not only do these treats prove to be a useful plot device in and of themselves, they also stand as a surprisingly effective metaphor for the film as a whole. Like them, it appears at first glance to be so completely removed from even the vaguest notions of reality thanks to its highly stylized look and crazy-quilt casting that it almost makes his other films look like slice-of-life dramas by comparison--it almost seems to serve as a quaintly raised middle finger directed at critics that have complained that he has gotten more and more insular with each new film. However, as it goes on, it quietly reveals heretofore unexpected depths beneath the candy-coated surface and even Anderson's most dedicated fans may be surprised to discover how powerful and effective it eventually proves itself to be.

Set in Zubrowka, a mythical European country that will suggest Hungary or Czechoslovakia to some and which presumably can be found on the map between Klopstokia and Freedonia, the film starts in present-day as a young woman leaves a tribute at a statue of the land's most famous author while reading his best-known work, "The Grand Budapest Hotel." From there, we peel back to 1985 as that author (Tom Wilkinson) discusses--or at least attempts to discuss--how he came to tell this particular story. From there, we pull back again to 1968 as a younger version of the author (Jude Law) arrives at the Grand Budapest, a once-opulent hotel that has clearly seen better days, to recuperate from the horrors of Scribes Fever. One day, he notices an unusual man sitting in the lobby and when they later meet, he turns out to be Zero Mustaffa (F. Murray Abraham), the mysterious owner of the hotel, and over dinner that night, Zero recounts the strange tale of his history with the place, a saga that takes us back to 1932 when the young Zero (Tony Revolori) was just starting out as a lowly lobby boy under the tutelage of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the liberally perfumed concierge who lives to provide his guests with all the splendor and comfort he can provide, especially the older and wealthier women. (When someone remarks with shock that he slept with someone who is 85, he cooly remarks "I've had older.")

One of those older and wealthier women is Madame D (a virtually unrecognizable Tilda Swinton) and on her latest visit, she seems especially nervous and jumpy and she has only just returned home when she turns up dead. With the uncomprehending Zero at his side, Gustave rushes off to her home for the reading of her will and it quickly becomes evident that he is not particularly welcome, especially when it is discovered that he has inherited the priceless painting "Boy with Apple." When it becomes evident that D's monstrous son Dimitri (Adrien Brody) and his equally diabolical henchman Joplin (Willem Dafoe) are not going to let it go that easily, Gustave is encouraged by the butler, Serge X (Mathiu Amalric),to steal the painting and hide it within the hotel.

Before long, Gustave is arrested for D's murder and thrown in jail but with the combined assistance of Zero, fearsome criminal Ludwig (Harvey Keitel), Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), the pretty pastry maker that Zero is sweet on, and a secret society of hotel concierges known as the Society of Crossed Keys (Bill Murray and Bob Balaban being among their numbers), Gustave escapes and goes off in search of Serge X, who can presumably clear his name, while evading the twin clutches of police inspector Henckles (Edward Norton), who remembers Gustave fondly from vacations at the hotel when he was younger, and Joplin, whose pursuit leaves a number of bodies in his wake. Meanwhile, the once-bucolic Zubrowka begins to encounter the storm clouds of war as the Nazi-like "ZZ" soldiers that have turned up sporadically begin to grow in numbers and influence as their machinations threaten to bring the genteel era represented by Gustave to a definitive and brutal end.

After his first three films ("Bottle Rocket," "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums")--all of which dealt with easily identifiable people and recognizable surroundings--Wes Anderson's subsequent efforts (including "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," "The Darjeeling Limited" and "Moonrise Kingdom") have placed his stories in increasingly stylized and exotic worlds and populated them with defiantly quirky oddballs who are clearly at one with their surroundings--so much so, in fact, that his stop-motion animation adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's story "Fantastic Mr. Fox" could arguably be deemed the most naturalistic of the bunch. It is primarily this approach that has made Anderson one of the most divisive filmmakers of his generation amongst critics and audiences alike, who are pretty much even split between those who think that his deliberate sense of artifice only serves as an inadequate cover for the dramatic hollowness underneath and those who feel that Anderson's genius is due in large part to his way of balancing the whimsical surface elements with the genuinely felt emotional truths hidden just beneath the surface.

Although I have been in the latter camp since first encountering "Bottle Rocket" during its brief and largely unheralded original release (and consider "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" to be among the best films of their respective decades), I have to admit that upon first hearing about "The Grand Budapest Hotel," I had a feeling that this might be the point at long last when Anderson pushed things just a little too far and the whimsies on display would shift from "delightful" to "intolerable"--between the dessert-inspired visual approach, the jam-packed cast (besides those already mentioned, their numbers also include the likes of Anderson regulars Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson as well as Lea Seydoux as Madame D's maid) and the potentially questionable notion of telling a tale with the very real horrors of past and future world war lurking in the background, it seemed as if he might have finally bitten off more than he could chew. Therefore, despite my long-standing affection for his films, I was still startled and amazed to discover how effortlessly Anderson managed to pull things off this time around while nimbly dodging all the potential pitfalls he set up for himself along the way.

As a comedy and as a visual showcase, Anderson is once again working at the top of his game. The story is a cheerfully daffy riff on the kind of sophisticated farces, movies that were smart, silly and sexy in equal measure, that filmmakers like Ernst Lubitsch and Mitchell Leisen used to churn out with startling ease during the Thirties and Anderson goes at it with his full bag of cinematic tricks--shifting aspect ratios and narrative perspectives, stop-motion animation, deliberately odd costuming (including what must be the grandest collection of weirdo mustaches ever collected in one place), sets that are crammed to the breaking point with bizarre bric-a-brac and horizontal camera pans that are so reflexive by this point that they inspire big laughs all by themselves.

And yet, Anderson is not just trotting out his old tricks in lieu of anything new. The stylized look, for example, makes sense in context because as the narrative goes further back in time with each narrative layer, things become less and less realistic as a way of underscoring that what we are hearing is a story that has been passed down over the years and inevitably altered in the minds of both the storyteller and their audience. Additionally, while the film is oftentimes hilarious, Anderson is slowly and subtly giving the story a more serious underlay right from the start and when it takes a shift to the dramatic in the final reel, the scenes wind up having a surprisingly powerful impact as a result. (Anyone who claims, as some critics have, that the relatively somber conclusion is at odds with the rest of the film clearly was not paying attention to what was going on.)

Like Woody Allen, the Coen Brothers and maybe one or two others, Anderson is at a point where he has the kind of cachet to get virtually any actor he wants to appear in one of his projects, no matter how tiny the part, and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is the most obvious proof of that to date. While it is true that most of the cast he has assembled here is only on the screen for a scene or too, Anderson makes the most of it by casting them so effectively that their faces alone provide a more detailed backstory than any script pages possibly could--just from a glimpse, we can tell, for example, that Willem Dafoe's character is evil incarnate, that Edward Norton's is conflicted between his sense of duty and his fondness for Gustave, that Harvey Keitel's is a tough guy with a certain code of ethic and that Bill Murray has once again lucked into what will one day be referred to as "the Bill Murray role."

Everyone involved is clearly having fun but the two finest performances on display are the lead turns from Ralph Fiennes as Gustave and newcomer Tony Revolori as the young version of Zero. Although an incontestably great actor, Fiennes has never really displayed much in the way of a sense of humor on the screen (as anyone who withered through "Maid in Manhattan" can attest) but he proves to be an inspired choice for the roué Gustave--he proves to be an inspired farceur who fits in ideally with Anderson's idiosyncratic material while at the same time suggesting that darker things lie ahead. For Revolori, it must have been a challenge to have to appear opposite a good portion of the current SAG roster in one of his first major roles but he more than holds his own with his co-stars even while doing little more than standing silently as the chaos unravels around him.

As great as "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is--and it is a delight from beginning to end--it may not be the ideal way to introduces newcomers to the world of Wes Anderson and it is unlikely to win current naysayers to the cause. However, if one wanted to make a case for Anderson being one of the strongest, most distinctive and most surprising of filmmakers working today, it more than does the job. Hilarious, touching and always surprising, this is almost certainly going to go down as one of the damndest things that you are likely to see this year or in the foreseeable future. Love it or hate, I promise that you have never experienced anything quite like it before and that it is not the kind of film you are likely to forget anytime soon.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25832&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/13/14 23:12:04
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Berlin Film Festival For more in the 2014 Berlin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 SXSW Film Festival For more in the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/19/16 Stephen nothing short of a masterpiece 5 stars
2/19/15 Bents Visually stunning, but lacking the heart of Moonrise and Tenenbaums 4 stars
1/25/15 Helen Bradley-Jones Really entertaining, original and loved every moment 5 stars
12/31/14 JLou04 Totally charming 5 stars
7/30/14 D. The R. "Arch"' "precious", "annoyingly self-aware", but still OK for Wesophiles. 3 stars
7/04/14 Langano Love Wes but this one missed the mark. 2 stars
5/08/14 Richard Brandt Like its main character, a silly thing that you come to care about 5 stars
4/22/14 Eric Eyster dug it a wes anderson classic 5 stars
4/17/14 Bert Disappointing;shallow slapstick that never comes together 2 stars
3/30/14 Aubrey Hillier Pure &^%$#@ crap 1 stars
3/23/14 glzcarl great movie. Incredible cast. Funny and touching. 5 stars
3/12/14 Corinne May The characters are no sillier than those in "The Royal Tenenbaums" 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  07-Mar-2014 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jun-2014


  DVD: 17-Jun-2014

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Privacy Policy | | HBS Inc. |   
All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast