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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After eight years of watching House M.D., we've all learned something very, very important: Your medical malady is never as simple as it seems, and if you faint, you probably have some archaic disease that most modern doctors have never studied because it was removed from medical dictionaries in 1892. Good luck finding that one on Web MD.
Hugh Laurie might have spent the finale seeking the cure for his own familiar turmoils, but House has long been known as the medical series with all the completely left-field diagnoses. While Laurie has yet to diagnose a patient with constant involuntary orgasms like the sexy doctor set over on Grey's Anatomy, he's certainly managed to shock us on a weekly basis since he first tapped that cane to the floor of Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital in 2004.
And while many of the final verdicts are shocking in the manner in which the diseases and disorders are contracted or the sheer rarity of their appearances in modern medicine, there were at least 21 (and a half) diagnoses in the past eight years that had us saying, "W. T. F."
21 1/2. Two Separate Cases of Leprosy. On One Series.
How this series ended up with one case of leprosy in its eight years is a wonder, but two? That's insanity. Leprosy is extremely rare in the United States and according to the World Health Organization, most U.S. cases come from people who've immigrated from countries with dense populations and poor sanitation and healthcare. Also, leprosy has been around since Biblical times. How is it that two people in Dr. House's care have had the disease? I repeat: Insanity. (Hence the extra half point).
20. That's An MP3 Player Stuck Where the Sun Don't Shine.
Sometimes, the answer isn't some complicated disease in a history book. It's a simple, head-smackingly obvious answer. When one Season 1 patient refuses to sit down, the Princeton-Plainsboro set is forced to realize that he's suffering from an object lodged in his anus. (Shudder.) Let's hope he just bought himself a bigger iPod — one that can't get stuck in any of his orifices.
19. Ma'am, Your Son Has Orange Skin Due to Too Many Carrots.
Okay, too many carrots and a Niacin overdose. But still, it's the diagnosis that proves you really are what you eat. Plus, how great would it be as a kid to be able to tell your mom: Yes, there is such a thing as too many vegetables. Take that, Mom!
18. House Prescribes Cigarettes to Curb Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
He's just a wild and crazy guy, everyone. The diagnosis itself if a little disgusting, but House's remedy is classic. Put that in your pipe and (don't) smoke it, Mr. Surgeon General.
17. Your Watch Band Is Too Tight. You Should Probably Fix That.
When a patient comes in complaining of extreme numbness in his arm, we're sure it's a stroke or the heart attack symptoms we've all learned about from watching too many sitcoms, but in truth the poor guy just as trouble dressing himself properly. Or he's really afraid of watch bandits. Loosen up, my friend.
16. That Baby Is Sticking Toys Up His Nose to Rescue a Toy Cat. Aw?
A man comes in with his baby brother three separate times because the child will not stop sticking trucks and toy firemen in his nose. House figures out what the problem is: There is a toy cat stuck in his nose and the little boy was sending rescue vehicles in to save it from his nose hairs tree. Adorable... and also gross.
15. You're Not Pregnant. That's Just a 30-Pound Tumor in Your Uterus.
We thought this case might have been one of those "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" tales (one of the ones in which the mother doesn't have the baby in the toilet), but nope! This is House, not some rinky dink basic cable medical drama. That "baby" is a ridiculously large benign tumor that no one seemed to notice. Jaws. hitting. floors.
14. Sexsomnia. Is a Thing.
House keeps trying to tell his patient, who is complaining of bruises and rashes, that they are the result of sexual encounters, but she swears she's been celibate. Nope. Wrong. She's been celibate when she's been conscious, but as soon as she falls asleep, the hanky panky begins. The patient suffers from sleep-walking-sex or, more officially, sexsomnia.
13. A Farmer Contracts Flesh-Eating Bacteria From His Trusty Pup's Saliva.
Yeah, yeah. We've heard of flesh-eating bacteria before. What's the big deal now? Well, let's think of it this way: You get home from work and your dog, Peanut Butter, is so excited. He's jumping up and licking your face and you're thinking, "Aw. This is the cutest thing ever. My world makes sense again and my day is no longer relevant." Then BAM. Peanut Butter's affection gives you a flesh-eating bacteria problem. Pretty crazy, right? That's what I thought.
12. An S&M Aficionado Has Damaged Arteries From Recreational Strangulation.
S&M is all good fun until your arteries are damaged. Take that into account next time you don that leather body suit. And if you're as unlucky as House's patient, you might also have to explain this diagnosis to your parents, which is probably worse than having damaged arteries in the first place.
11. The Metal Pins (I'll Wait) in a Patient's Head (Take Your Time) Are Displaced By Magnets (I'm Sorry, What?)
The metal pins in House's patient's head probably could have killed her on their own, but surviving one miracle wasn't enough. We had to bring magnets into the equation, move these killers around a little bit, and then try to save her.
10. A Girl Suffers From Scurvy. In 2006. Really.
Scurvy is not just for pirates and ye mangy dogs. It's also for girls who've apparently not come in contact with normal food for months on end. When House discovers his patient is suffering from the old-timey disease, her prescribes her the most sarcastic remedy possible: A glass of orange juice. Get it together, Scurvy girl.
9. That Toothpick You Swallowed Didn't Digest Properly. Weird.
A teen boy has a respiratory attack while making out with his girlfriend, and after the doctors go through the medical ringer, it turns out the dummy swallowed a tooth pick, which pierced his intestine and started all this madness. Lesson: Don't swallow tiny, wooden, pointy things that slightly resemble a mini-ninja weapon.
8. Precocious Puberty is Not As Cute As It Sounds.
A young girl reaches puberty at age six (that's the "Precocious" part) and it's all because she's being affected by her creepy dad's sexual-enhancement cream. The kicker? He's using the cream because he's trying to keep up with his young girlfriend: His daughter's teacher. That's a whole lotta nope right there.
7. Breckin Meyer Has a Bezoar. Which Is Not a Mythical Creature.
Bezoars are extremely uncommon and disgusting: They are masses that become lodged in the gastrointestinal system. House originally thinks Breckin's is a regular bezoar, comprised of undigested food, but it turns out ol' Breckie's been into the hard stuff: Experimental antacids have caused the bezoar to grow and cause a mess of uncomfortable symptoms. I bet you'll listen next time your mother tells you to chew before you swallow.
6. Your Seven-Year-Old Gunshot Wound Is Poisoning You, FYI.
When an agorophobic patient's phantom illness won't quit, House digs deeper and finds he's suffering from lead poisoning. But agorophobes don't go outside. Where is the lead from? It's come from tiny shards of a bullet from a gunshot wound from seven years ago. We're all going to die, aren't we?
5. Mama Always Said Tattoos Were Bad News, And Yours Is Poison. (Yes, Actual Poison.)
When one patient suffers from amnesia suddenly, House struggles to find the source. It turns out the ailing wretch is allergic to his own tattoo and the allergy was triggered by an extreme long distance running (wait, long-distance running isn't already an extreme sport?) habit. I'm never running again. Ever. (Woo! Now I have an excuse.)
4. Mos Def's Life Is Actually a Horror Movie.
Locked-In Syndrome is extremely rare and is reserved for only the creepiest horror movie plots. The syndrome finds patients paralyzed completely, except for their eyes, which can still shift and see everything. Until this episode aired, I thought this was something Stephen King and his horror writer friends made up over beers. It is now my single greatest fear. Thanks, Hugh Laurie.
3. Oh, That's Just Your Average Hemlock Poisoning. NBD.
Hemlock wasn't the final diagnosis for this House patient, but it was correct one on the way to the final verdict. I'm fairly certain that the last time someone was poisoned, men still referred to those fabric things on their legs as "pantaloons." And that's appropriate, because this poisoning took place as part of a Renaissance fair(e) power struggle. Which reminds me, I need to mark down that upcoming Renaissance Fair in my planner... so I can move across state lines before it happens.
2. The Doctor Is Officially High on Toad Eggs.
Toad roe is not something you've probably ever heard of because it's a delicacy in far away South East Asia. But what's really important about this fishy little snack is that it will get you totally high. Dr. Richardson is acting a bit of a fool when Amber Tamblyn gives House a break and discovers that Richardson sneaked off to an underground seafood festival, where he ate questionable toad eggs (are there any other kind?) and started tripping. Let's keep this quiet lest it become a bigger "epidemic" than vodka-tamponing.
1. Yep. You Inhaled a Piece of Food. That's it. Right There in Your Lung.
Sometimes, the problem is anything but medical. My friend, when we joked about being so hungry we could inhale our food, we were kidding. Take a minute to stop and smell the roses... wait. We should use another metaphor. Or not. Just take your time and don't literally take your food into your lungs. That's bad, mmkay?
Are we missing any of your favorite crazy House cases? Let us know! Share 'em in the comments.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
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The Toronto International Film Festival: a renaissance of artistic paramount (as opposed to the Renaissance, which was pretty much all trash).
This year's TIFF will be a mineshaft full of cinematic dynamite. Known as the breeding ground for Oscar fare, the prestigious festival as offered up a glimpse at their 2011 slate, touting big stars: George Clooney, Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Glenn Close (as a man!?), Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, Jason Segal, Blake Lively, Jon Hamm, Krisitin Wiig, Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Carey Mulligan, Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Christopher Walken and Selma Blair. To name a few.
Check out the photos and look out for more as they roll out of TIFF!
A DANGEROUS METHOD
TAKE THIS WALTZ
THE IDES OF MARCH
JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME