HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Grand Budapest Hotel
HTS Overall Score:84
How do you even describe a Wes Anderson film? (Not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson or Paul W.S. Anderson). He is a man that tends to live in the Criterion world, a man fascinated with the whimsical and the ludicrous. He’s been described as a gem among directors, pretentious, wildly opaque, and even brilliant. The thing is, he’s probably a mixture of all of them in weird hodgepodge stew. With “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, he’s back at his comedic game, putting all of his energy into the crazy almost slapstick, dry as a bone flair of humor that he’s so famous for. With “Moonrise Kingdom” Anderson had a bit of a dry spell, with it falling a bit flat for most audiences, but here he’s backtracked a bit and gotten back to his roots (so to speak) that made him famous with such outings as “The Royal Tenenbaums”. We have ridiculous characters, who range from the charming M. Gustave, to the over the top cartoon villain Jopling and Adrien Brody at his over the top best. “Grand Budapest” is charming, whimsical, a bit out there, but an enjoyable adventure nonetheless. Snapping around from one era to the next, it employs shifting aspect ratios to tell the story with a masterful visual flair and allows he viewer to be part of an era, and a style that has long been defunct in our day and age.
The film mainly centers on the adventure of one Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge at the famed Grand Budapest Hotel, located in central Europe in a fictitious country just before the onset of WWII. Couple that with his trusted hotel Lobby Boy, one Zero Moustapha (played by F. Murray Abraham as an old man and Tony Revolori as a young boy). As with the shifting aspect ratios we have shifting time periods as well. The story is narrated by an author (Tom Wilkinson during the 80’s and Jude law during the 60s) who has written a novel about his experience in the Grand Budapest Hotel. The narrative starts out in 1985, after the novel is complete and soon jumps back to 1968, where he meets Mr. Moustapha at the famed hotel. There we see the young author privy to a once in a lifetime experience, as Zero Moustapha recounts the tale of how he became to be the proud owner of such historical artifact such as the Grand Budapest. As with all tales that recount the past, we now have to relapse in time once more where Zero Moustapaha was just a Lobby Boy at the hotel, under the tutelage of Gustave H. Gustave is vain, needy, blonde, egotistical and above all, a gentlemen. Running the hotel like clockwork nothing is out of place and every guest is treated like a king or queen. One of Gustave’s most beloved patrons ends up dead after a bitter farewell from the hotel and he is willed a priceless painting. As the will isn’t exactly finalized yet due to the nature of her death, the painting isn’t exactly Gustave’s yet. It seems that her entire family of vultures has decided to try and get their hands on everything they can. The son, Dimitri (Adrien Brody), is bound and determined to get this whole business of the will out of the way and will stop at nothing to get Gustave out of the picture. Now, Gustave is more than happy to oblige, but ends up stealing the painting (that would soon be his anyways) and zips away to the Hotel once more. Unfortunately the Police inspector is after him (played by Edward Norton) and Dimitri appears to have framed our foppish concierge for the murder of his mother.
Whisked away to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, Gustave has to endure the humiliation of not having his afternoon tea as well as figure out a way to escape with the painting. To make things even more complicated, Zero has fallen in love with a beautiful baker named Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) and wishes to marry her. Not about to let his boss die in prison, Zero and Agatha are employed to help with the prison break and the subsequent tracking down of the only witness who can clear Gustave’s name. Tracked by merciless villains and hit men, Gustave and Zero must track across the snowy mountains, elude killers, and all the while find the second will and testament of the deceased, all while making sure to do so with the utmost poise and dignity.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a lesson in whimsical dry humor. It borders on the absurd while still keeping the humor from getting too slapstick, but instead relies on sharp wit and a sense of sophistication that grounds the more absurd points of the movie. The story is not just told through the script, but with an incredible array of visual filming techniques and imagery. While the location of the Grand Budapest Hotel is fictitious, it pulls from the reality of the time, lampooning the Nazi invaders as leather wearing buffoons (utilizing the famous double lightening insignias of Goble’s corp as the ZZ (Zig Zag division) and has the tongue firmly implanted in cheek with the implementation of the crossed keys league (a clandestine group of hotel concierge’s who band together to help Gustave out in his time of need). Adrien Brody is perfect to play the resident creep Dimitri and Willem Dafoe keeps his mouth shut for once as he plays the menacing (and a bit ludicrous) sidekick Jopling.
Anderson likes to mess around with his characters, mashing up a myriad of stereotypes into one uniquely flawed piece. Gustave H. is the epitome of charm and culture, filled with dignity and grace, but then he switches to moments where his character drops into lowbrow humor and language. And while we’re talking about characters, it wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie if we didn’t have an amazing line up of secondary characters. We have Ed Norton as the chief of police, Jeff Goldblum as the lawyer, Willem Defoe as the thug with an underslung jaw, Tilda Swinton as the dead duchess, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson, Mathieu Amalric etc etc. Most of these characters are all veterans of Anderson and you’ll notice their inclusion in pretty much every one of his films (especially Bill Murray and Owen Wilson). Telling a grim story with a whimsical veneer, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a whimsical stroll through Anderson’s very unique field of dreams. Never dreary, never dull, but definitely an acquired taste, it’s so refreshing to see a director who creates something different and out of the box in a world where the box is seemingly all that’s left.
Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=21234[/img]Wes Anderson has applied a rather unique set of aspect ratios in the film and they all have their own unique grading and style to them. The beginning and end of the film, set during 1985, is filmed in letterboxed 1.85:1 (a format commonly used during the time period), during the 1968 portions of the film with Jude Law being regaled the tale of M. Gustave is done with a 2.30:1 ratio (non-letterboxed) and the majority of the film which is set during the early 30’s is filmed in 1.37:1. Purely a stylistic choice it’s meant to be indicative to the time period being portrayed. Each one of the three looks incredibly beautiful. Richly oversaturated with colors and covered in layer after layer of pink and yellows, the image is so vibrant that it almost burns your eye sockets out. The reds, the pinks, the blues, the pinks, the yellows, the pinks, the oranges, the pinks (you get the idea) are fantastically layered and full of bright magic. The detail is stunning, with plenty of bitrate given to the disc to provide a richly textured and designed film. Flesh tones can be a bit odd due to the color grading, but that’s to be expected with such an over saturated color palette. Black levels are superb and never show even a hint of crush. Being only a bit over 1.5 hours there is plenty of room on the disc for a great encode and no hints of digital artifacting show up. My only complaint is that there IS some softness during some scenes. Most are incredibly sharp and detailed, but there are a few optical shots that tend to lose focus, especially in the backgrounds.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=21242[/img]Right on par for the course, 20th Century Fox has given us a superb 5.1 DTS-HD MA track to enjoy today. The track isn’t going to be a powerhouse action beast, but it is immensely pleasing and detailed with a fantastic amount of depth to it. The film carries a lot of weight in the front sound stage, as it is first and foremost a dialogue centric track. The vocals are crisp and perfectly intelligible at all times, with a very solid dynamic range for its genre. While you would expect a dramedy such as “Grand Budapest Hotel” to be a bit light in the loafers with the rest of the channels, you would be wrong. The surrounds are used expertly and deftly to create a fantastic sense of immersion into the whimsical little world that Anderson has created. The score ripples through all 6 channels for a majority of the film and the ambient noises are copious and well defined to say the least. The sub channel is used quite often, but it’s never over bearing or unwanted, but rather adds some depth and weight to the track at all times. Wes Anderson is nothing if not incredibly detailed in all his films and this track is no exception to the rule. A well done track in all aspects.
• Bill Murray Tours the Town
• The Making of The Grand Budapest Hotel
• Wes Anderson
• Stills Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer
Wes Anderson is a very unique director, one whose passions are very clearly spelled out on screen and it’s always nice to see something different in a world of directors who all look and sound the same after a while. His whimsical humor is never the type to make you laugh out loud, but rather cause the viewer to be in a constant state where a smile is just lurking under the surface. “Grand Budapest Hotel” isn’t as perfect as some of his previous films like “The Royal Tenenbaums” or “Life Aquatic”, but it carries all the trademark lines of Anderson and the ridiculous amount of cameos from actors who adore working with the man. The audio is fantastic, the video is spectacular and the movie is well done. Wes Anderson’s works aren’t for everyone, for he is a bit eccentric, but it is definitely worth a watch for those who haven’t seen his works and a must buy for fans (unless of course you are waiting for the inevitable Criterion release).
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Owen Wilson, Billl Murray, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson
Aspect Ratio: 2:30:1, 1.85:1, 1.37:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish DD 5.1
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Buy Grand Budapest Hotel Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
More about Mike