Bernard Slade was a writer who proved you cannot typecast. He went from creating and writing some of the frothiest, silliest sitcoms in American TV history, (e.g., "The Flying Nun", "The Partridge Fam...
You don't arrive at the Grand Budapest Hotel without your share of Wes Anderson baggage. Odds are, if you've booked a visit to this film, you've enjoyed your past trips to the Wes Indies (I promise I'll stop this extended metaphor soon), delighting especially in Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and his most recent charmer Moonrise Kingdom. On the other hand, you could be the adventurous sort — a curious diplomat who never really got Anderson's uric-toned deadpan drudgings but can't resist browsing through the brochures of his latest European getaway. First off, neither community should worry about a bias in this review — I'm a Life Aquatic devotee, equally alienating to both sides. Second, neither community should be deterred by Andersonian expectations, be they sky high or subterranean, in planned Budapest excursions. No matter who you are, this movie will charm your dandy pants off and then some.
While GBH hangs tight to the filmmaker's recognizable style, the movie is a departure for Anderson in a number of ways. The first being plot: there is one. A doozy, too. We're accustomed to spending our Wes flicks peering into the stagnant souls of pensive man-children — or children-men (Moonrise) or fox-kits (guess) — whose journeys are confined primarily to the internal. But not long into Grand Budapest, we're on a bona fide adventure with one of the director's most attractive heroes to date: the didactic Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes mastering sympathetic comedy better than anyone could have imagined he might), who invests his heart and soul into the titular hotel, an oasis of nobility in a decaying 1930s Europe. Gustave is plucked from his sadomasochistic nirvana overseeing every cog and sprocket in the mountaintop institution and thrust into a madcap caper — reminiscent of, and not accidentally, the Hollywood comedies of the era — involving murder, framing, art theft, jailbreak, love, sex, envy, secret societies, high speed chases... believe me, I haven't given half of it away. Along the way, we rope in a courageous baker (Saoirse Ronan), a dutiful attorney (Jeff Goldblum), a hotheaded socialite (Adrien Brody) and his psychopathic henchman (Willem Dafoe), and no shortage of Anderson regulars. The director proves just as adept at the large scale as he is at the small, delivering would-be cartoon high jinks with the same tangible life that you'd find in a Billy Wilder romp or one of the better Hope/Crosby Road to movies.
Anchoring the monkey business down to a recognizable planet Earth (without sacrificing an ounce of comedy) is the throughline of Gustave's budding friendship with his lobby boy, Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori, whose performance is an unprecedented and thrilling mixture of Wes Anderson stoicism and tempered humility), the only living being who appreciates the significance of the Grand Budapest as much as Gustave does. In joining these two oddballs on their quest beyond the parameters of FDA-approved doses of zany, we appreciate it, too: the significance of holding fast to something you believe in, understand, trust, and love in a world that makes less and less sense everyday. Anderson's World War II might not be as ostensibly hard-hitting as that to which modern cinema is accustomed, but there's a chilling, somber horror story lurking beneath the surface of Grand Budapest. Behind every side-splitting laugh, cookie cutter backdrop, and otherworldly antic, there is a pulsating dread that makes it all mean something. As vivid as the worlds of Rushmore, Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise might well have been, none have had this much weight and soul.
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So it's astonishing that we're able to zip to and fro' every crevice of this haunting, misty Central Europe at top speeds, grins never waning as our hero Gustave delivers supernaturally articulate diatribes capped with physically startling profanity. So much of it is that delightfully odd, agonizingly devoted character, his unlikely camaraderie with the unflappably earnest young Zero, and his adherence to the magic that inhabits the Grand Budapest Hotel. There are few places like it on Earth, as we learn. There aren't many movies like it here either.
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Wrote screen adaptation of play "Same Time, Next Year"; earned Oscar nomination
Was actor with the Garden Center Theatre, Vineland, Ontario, Canada
First play produced on Broadway, "Same Time, Next Year"
First produced screenplay, "Stand Up and Be Counted"
Adapted "Tribute" as feature
Created sitcom "The Girl With Something Extra" (NBC)
Had first play, "Simon Says, Get Married", produced in Canada
Created sitcom "The Flying Nun" (ABC)
Had first teleplay produced in USA on "U.S. Steel Hour"
Wrote 15 episodes of anthology series for the Candian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
Scipted screen version of play "Romantic Comedy"
Created sitcom "The Partidge Family" (ABC)
Had second Broadway success with "Tribute"
Produced 25 plays for Garden Center Theatre
Created and wrote episodes for the ABC sitcom "Love on a Rooftop"
Created sitcom "Bridget Loves Bernie" (CBS)
Bernard Slade was a writer who proved you cannot typecast. He went from creating and writing some of the frothiest, silliest sitcoms in American TV history, (e.g., "The Flying Nun", "The Partridge Family") to writing insightful, thoughtful Broadway plays about relationships and love (e.g., "Same Time, Next Year", "Tribute").
Slade began his career as an actor in his native Canada, performing with the Garden Center Theatre in Vineland, Ontario. By 1954, he was producing plays for the theater as well. Within a few years he was penning episodes of anthology programs produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He even sold four scripts to the "U.S. Steel Hour". Slade did not abandon theater, either, and by the end of the 50s he had begun to write plays. "Simon Says, Get Married" was produced in 1959, followed by "A Very Close Family" (1961). By the mid-60s, however, he had decamped to Hollywood and turned to a career as a TV writer, working on many popular sitcoms of the day, including "Bewitched." In 1966, ABC gave Slade his first shot at creating a series and he came up with "Love on a Rooftop", which ran for one season and was similar in theme to Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park", featuring a young couple living in a windowless walk-up apartment that had access to a wonderful rooftop with a view of San Francisco. The following year, Slade created "The Flying Nun", which cast Sally Field as a novice in Puerto Rico who was able to use her habit's headgear to wing around with the birds. The writer went on to create several other sitcoms, including "The Partridge Family" (ABC, 1970-74) and "Bridget Loves Bernie" (CBS, 1972-73), a short-lived offering about a Jewish guy and a Irish-American Catholic girl who marry and try to mesh their families. (The uproar in the Jewish community about the condoned intermarriage contributed to its cancellation after one season.) Slade reteamed with Sally Field for "The Girl With Something Extra" (NBC 1973-74), which found the actress cast as the psychic wife of John Davidson.
Despite his modest success in TV, Slade returned to his first love in the mid-70s with "Same Time, Next Year", a gimmicky play about a man and a woman who are married to others, but annually meet for sex and conversation. The play proved to be a hit, due partly to the casting of leads Charles Grodin and Ellen Burstyn. Slade received a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination for Outstanding Play. He followed with "Tribute" (1978), the story of a son who learns to loosen up and love the father who might not have always been there for him, but is beloved by everyone in the theater district. Again, aided by Jack Lemmon's leading performance, the show proved to be successful. His string of hits was ruptured with "Romantic Comedy" (1979), about a playwright who must stifle his feelings for his female writing partner. The lack of chemistry between leads Anthony Perkins and Mia Farrow hurt the show.
By then, Slade had found success adapting his plays for the screen. He had made his big screen debut with "Stand Up and Be Counted" (1972), a proto-feminist film starring Jacqueline Bisset. Slade earned an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of "Same Time, Next Year" (1979), which featured Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda. He also won praise for his screen version of "Tribute" (1980), with Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick and Robby Benson, but was less successful with "Romantic Comedy" (1983), which paired Mary Steenburgen and Dudley Moore. His subsequent projects have been more sporadic with the most notable being "Moving Day" (PBS, 1987), in which Candice Bergen played a divorced woman leaving the home in which she had spent the last 20 years.
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"I am a prisoner of a childhood dream to write for the theatre. The fulfillment of that dream has lived up to all my expectations. I believe the theatre should be a celebration of the human condition and that the artist's job is to remind us of all that is good about ourselves." --Bernard Slade