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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As you prepare to enjoy the 4th of July weekend, SSN gives you a preview of good TV to look out for in the coming weeks.
We hope you tuned in to Showtime last night for the final season premiere of Dexter and the premiere of Ray Donovan. Dexter is back in fine form as his sister Debra has quit the police force and is mentally going off the rails. This is the show’s final season and you should be on the lookout for Charlotte Rampling in upcoming episodes as a neuro-psychiatrist who knows a lot about Dexter even though he doesn’t realize who she is at first.
Ray Donovan stars Liev Schreiber as a very effective Hollywood fixer with personal problems of his own, starting with his ex-con father Mickey (Jon Voight). Ray tries to protect and take care of his family and his two brothers, Bunchy (Dash Mihok) and Terry (Eddie Marsan), but as soon as Mickey shows up in L.A., it all starts to go south. Be sure you make time each Sunday night for Dexter and Ray Donovan.
Upcoming shows we’re looking forward to:
INTERIOR THERAPY WITH JEFF LEWIS SEASON PREMIERE Tuesday – July 9th, 2013 at 9:00pm on Bravo
Reasons To Watch: Say what you will about Jeff Lewis: his OCD makes him extra-particular about everything, his eye for detail sometimes borders on the insane but the man knows how to make a home livable and beautiful. Lewis and his right-hand gal Jenni Poulos are back to help troubled couples and families with home decorating issues that also affect their relationships.
THE BRIDGE SERIES PREMIERE Wednesday – July 10th, 2013 at 10:00pm on FX
Academy Award nominee Demian Bichir (A Better Life) and Diane Kruger star in this new drama from writers Meredith Stiehm (Homeland, Cold Case) and Elwood Reid (Hawaii Five-O, Cold Case). Based on the Danish/Swedish series Bron, which was set on the border of Denmark and Sweden, The Bridge is set on the border between El Paso and Juarez. It centers on two detectives, one from the U.S., Detective Sonya Cross (Kruger), and one from Mexico, Marco Ruiz (Bichir), who must work together to hunt down a serial killer operating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. The Bridge co-stars Ted Levine, Annabeth Gish, and Thomas M. Wright. Gerardo Naranjo (Miss Bala) directed the pilot.
Reasons To Watch: Bichir never gives a bad performance. We loved him as a drug kingpin on Weeds a few seasons ago and we know he’ll be equally compelling as a lawman. We also loved Stiehm’s writing on Homeland, especially the pivotal season one episode “The Weekend.” If The Bridge adheres to the FX drama brand, it will be worth watching.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK SERIES PREMIERE Thursday – July 11th, 2013 at 12:01am on Netflix
Reasons To Watch: Jenji Kohan (Weeds) adapted Piper Kerman’s memoir of an executive’s time in a minimum security women’s prison for drug charges. Kohan excels at writing women in unusual circumstances and combining humor and pathos. We’ve seen the first two episodes and we’re in for the run. Taylor Schilling is cast well as Piper Chapman, the yuppie gal who goes to prison for a crime she committed ten years ago. Jason Biggs plays her loving fiancée Larry, Laura Prepon is a woman from Piper’s past (no spoilers here) and look for Kate Mulgrew in a very different kind of role.
HOLLYWOOD GAME NIGHT SERIES PREMIERE Thursday – July 11th, 2013 at 10:00pm on NBC
Reasons To Watch: Jane Lynch and games! Jane Lynch hosts this fun, light show that has celebrities like Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Alexander, Josh Gad, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Allison Hannigan, Kristen Bell, and Daniel Dae Kim teaming up with civilians to compete in party games.
THE NEWSROOM SEASON PREMIERE Sunday – July 14th, 2013 at 10:00pm on HBO
Reasons To Watch: This Aaron-Sorkin-penned drama is far from perfect (don’t get us started on how Sorkin writes female characters) but the combination of fast wordplay and Jeff Daniels make the show worth watching. We also think Thomas Sadowski and John Gallagher Jr. are great and we hope they both get meatier storylines this season. We also hope to see more of Jane Fonda, though we haven’t heard how many episodes she’ll turn up in during this second season.
What will you be watching? Do you have any summer TV favorites? Let us know in the comments.
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