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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
S5E17: This week’s The Big Bang Theory is kind of a wash. No storylines progress, which is usually okay since it’s a sitcom. But nothing of merit happens. We get a Barry Kripke-heavy episode, so if you like watching a guy speak like Porky Pig, then this one’s for you. For the most part, “The Rothman Disintegration” plays like an episode from one of the earlier seasons, which isn’t terrible. But by this point in the show’s history, Chuck Lorre and his writers can produce a much better half hour than this paint-by-numbers episode.
“These shrimps are all the same size, there’s no logical order to eat them in.” – Sheldon
On their way back from Dr. Rothman’s retirement party, Sheldon wants to take a look at his new office, which is Rothman’s old one. Seeing as how Rothman was driven insane and forced to retire, he won’t be needing it...which could mean that Sheldon will have the same fate. Unfortunately for Dr. Cooper, Dr. Barry Kripke is already in the office, having called dibs, which means we’re in for a war over some prime office real estate. It’s just like the rest of the episode, but it’s a decent way to start things off.
“Before I met you I was a mousy wallflower. But look at me now: I’m like some downtown hipster party girl. With a posse, boyfriend, and new lace bra that hooks in front, of all things.” – Amy
Amy Farah Fowler’s continual misunderstanding of boundaries is taken to new levels as she commissions a painting of herself and Penny...and what an eyesore the gargantuan thing is. Unless the painting will keep Penny and Amy young – a la Dorian Gray – it needs to go posthaste. Judging by the look on her face, Penny feels the same way. Luckily for fans, Mayim Bialik continues to sell Amy no matter what the Big Bang writers throw at her. She’s grown far beyond her initial role as the female Sheldon.
“As you know, the essence of diplomacy is compromised. With that in mind, I propose the following – I will take Rothman’s office, and you will find a way to be ok with that.” – Sheldon
Kripke comes over to discuss who will get Rothman’s office. Evidently, Kripke hasn’t heard of the classic “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock,” so we’re treated to another explanation of the game. Despite the fun of watching R.P.S.L.S. again, the dueling scientists agree to decide who gets the office over a basketball game – an area in which the guys agree they’re both terrible. Go figure – sitcom uber-nerds are bad at sports. So long as they don’t try to grapple with each other like Raj and Howard did last season, I think we’ll be okay. And at halfway through the episode, I haven’t grown tired at Kripke’s Porky Pig-like voice, so hopefully I’ll be ok.
“You know all those terrible things bullies used to do to us? I get it.” – Leonard
Sheldon and Kripke do battle on the basketball court and play to five points. Justin “Linsanity” Lin of the New York Knicks these guys are not. Neither man can even make it to one point, let alone five, but they both break a sweat while pithily trying. Leonard lowers the standards and suggests making a basket from the free throw line. Even than doesn’t work, so the winner is decided over who can bounce a ball highest – Sheldon wins the grade school competition and praises his own satisfactory P.E. performance.
“Goodnight painting Penny. Goodnight real Penny. You don’t have to say goodnight to painting Amy because she’s never leaving.” – Amy “Goodnight real Penny. Goodnight transvestite Penny.” – Bernadette
Amy finds out that Penny hides their painting whenever Amy is not around, and she takes the painting home with her in an angry huff – at least she didn’t go for the sculpture. When Penny goes to Amy’s to apologize, she blames taking down the painting on Bernadette’s jealousy. Satisfied with the answer since Bernie is the “least cool,” Amy grabs the painting so she can re-hang it in Penny’s apartment.
“Mockingbirds can change their song, which means he’s out of tune on purpose. He’s mocking me.” – Sheldon
It’s hard to believe, but Sheldon’s new office has sort of gone to his head. The room itself is bound to make an OCD scientist snap: it’s got stale air, the hole in the wall where “something wanted out,” wind chimes, a mockingbird who clashed with said chimes, and vibrations from being underneath the geology lab. Sheldon's “nervous system is being plucked like the strings of a harp.” To the victor go the spoils, indeed. Sheldon going crazier than he already is? Yes, please.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m tired of Barry Kripke. He’s a one note character mocking a speech impediment. As for the actor who plays him, John Ross Bowie, they’ve used him to better effect on several occasions. Sadly, the battle over a new office wasn’t even funny. Kripke and Sheldon have had much funnier duels than this one. It’s not a good sign when throughout the episode, you get the feeling that Johnny Galecki has grown bored as I have with these sorts of plotlines – no matter how much the audience in attendance seems to love it. I’m sure I'm not the only one who has grown tired of repetitive sitcom tropes from a series that time and time again has shown it’s better than that.
Does anyone else want to see Sheldon’s growing insanity in his new office continue? Hopefully next week, we’ll get back to the quality this show is known for. What do my fellow Theorists think? Sound off in the comments below and follow Hollywood and me on Twitter @Hollywood_com and @CouchForceOne.