Editor’s note: The collective geniuses behind the Weekend film reviews realized there isn’t much in the way of theater offerings right now. In lieu of making this reviewer suffer, we decided Redbox would offer a more affordable — and hopefully, more enjoyable — alternative.
I’m beginning to think I have the cultural depth of a rock when it comes to film. Or maybe, I just have an inability to laugh.
It could be my broken funny bone — true story.
When “The Grand Budapest Hotel” came out earlier this year, the trailer looked interesting. Quirky, perhaps. I’ll admit there was a small part of me that was intrigued. But it wasn’t a film I was going to pay theater prices to see.
I should have trusted my earlier instincts.
Director/producer/writer Wes Anderson has apparently become someone I will never trust. Ever.
My previous knowledge of the man came from 2009’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.” While a friend of mine loved the film, I found it had no redeeming qualities apart from a very grumpy fox named Ash. His ear twitched often in irritation, and I hoped the character would find a way to end the movie by any means necessary. It was one of the few times I would approve of fox homicide.
Weekend Editor Steve Wildsmith spoke highly of 2012’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” in which Anderson also served as director, writer and producer. I personally thought it looked atrociously boring and refused to see it.
Considering the hate-hate relationship I have with Anderson, it doesn’t make much sense that I picked up “Grand Budapest” at Redbox. Well, sometimes I’m not overly bright.
The film booked an amazing cast — notice the hotel joke. Its star power was one of the things that made it appeal to me in the first place. With a cast of Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham and Willem Dafoe, how could it be bad?
Apparently I’d blocked out the fact that “Fantastic Mr. Fox” had my beloved Meryl Streep. She didn’t save that one, and this crew couldn’t save “Grand Budapest.”
Fiennes stars as M. Gustave, the hotel concierge of the Grand Budapest. Along with his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), they embark on an adventure of epic proportions after one of Gustave’s elderly lovers (Swinton) is killed, and he’s blamed. He steals an expensive painting she bequeaths him, he goes to prison, he escapes and it just goes on from there.
Much of the humor is deadpanned. Goldblum’s character, for example, asking calmly if his cat was just thrown out a window after a large yowl is heard. FYI, it was.
Or this exchange:
Gustave: “She was dynamite in the sack, by the way.”
Zero: “She was 84 ...”
Gustave: “I’ve had older.”
Each line is delivered with a subtlety that doesn’t fit the overall absurdity. Ideally, performances support the script. The two shouldn’t be at odds — unless the creator’s purpose is to cast a light on the difference between art and plot.
Despite this creative tension, I could still appreciate the performance of each and every actor. Fiennes and Revolori steal the film with a credible rapport.
The film is also original, and I’m sure to some it’s clever, maybe even brilliant. For me, it’s over the top and borders on the extremely absurd.
While the film is a visual feast for the eyes, there were some sights I just couldn’t get past. They pulled me out of its reality, forcing me to address and attempt to reconcile them.
First of all, much of the film is told in flashbacks, actually two sets of flashbacks. It’s a story within a story. Abraham serves as one of our storytellers. He’s the older Zero while Revolori plays the teenage version.
I’m not exactly sure how Anderson and Co. decided it made sense to have a young actor of Guatemalan descent portray an early incarnation of a character who would later be played by a white man. Perhaps Zero fell victim to the same disease that plagued the late Michael Jackson. Or perhaps it’s just one more touch that adds to the world Anderson has created, one that doesn’t — possibly isn’t — supposed to fit a neat mold.
I don’t know, and Anderson never provides me with enough evidence to arrive at an answer whether these inconsistencies serve a larger purpose. Some might call that brave. I don’t, though. I call it lazy. Artists, and other professional communicators, are here to communicate emotions and thoughts with an audience using all the tools at their disposal.
All in all, I’m in the critical minority when it comes to “Grand Budapest.” I didn’t find it amusing, and while I can appreciate the creativity, it’s an hour and 40 minutes I wish I could take back.