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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Maybe you line up for a concert ticket at 4 a.m. and scream your ears out the entire duration of the show.
Maybe you tape their appearances on MTV and worry that J.C. isn't getting enough rest. Maybe you have your own fan site and debate why Joey doesn't get more solos.
And maybe you pray that Justin dumps Britney after he spots you in the crowd.
And if that's the closest you think you'll ever get to 'N Sync, think again.
The pop group today announced a joint venture with the Microsoft Network, creating an Internet access service called *NSYNC@MSN. The service, available for $21.95 a month after the first month free, will give fans 'N Sync-customized Web browsers, Messenger service and Windows Media players. Users will also receive a special newsletter and exclusive access to video and photo footage.
"We're always trying to be on the cutting edge of things, and we think this is the cutting edge of where we think the Internet is going," said member Chris Kirkpatrick at a news conference in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The group, whose official site is the most popular for a band on the Net and has the largest number of chat communities on MSN, has collaborated with the Internet network to generate ideas for what they call the "ultimate online experience." These ideas include participating in chats, shooting their own digital footage and starting an online radio station that they can manage on the road.
'N Sync member J.C. Chasez told Hollywood.com that the group plans to expand on MTV's "Making the Tour" and "Making the Video" specials.
"There's 365 days in a year and [MTV] was with us for like a week. [But] people are [also] kind of interested to see what goes into making an album," Chasez said. "People never get to really see you in the studio and things like that. ... People are gonna get to see what it's like to be in the studio. See us interact with fans, see how they act, and that's how they'll be able to relate to other people. ... It'll be a great way for them to meet each other."
And while the group, who holds the record for one-week sales of 2.4 million for "No Strings Attached," groans a little about essentially signing their privacy away, they say that they're more than eager to reach out to the fans even if it means as much 'N Sync as possible.
"In other words, we'll be like 'Big Brother: The Tour,'" cracked Kirkpatrick. "You'll have us in your face the whole time ... it's kind of sick."
Fans of 'N Sync -- Kirkpatrick, Chasez, Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass and Joey Fatone -- will be able to sign up for the *NSYNC@MSN Internet Access service by going to http://msn.com/nsync or picking up an installation CD at the group's spring concerts. The service will be available only in the United States starting Dec. 1.