Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel received lots of attention from this year’s Academy Awards.  So this weekend, I thought I’d see what all the hype was about.  I’d been having some pervasive (and annoying) technical issues with my cable service but luckily I was able to order it On Demand and boy, was I shocked.

I had gone into the movie thinking that it’d be a quirky romp revolving around eccentric characters set in a European town. Wes Anderson movies are generally a little too sensitive and precious for my liking but I thought I’d try it anyway.  It just goes to show you, never judge a book by it’s cover.  This movie was action-packed!

For some reason, the movie is set in Detroit, Michigan in the not so distant future.  Anderson depicts the once great American city as a dystopia.  Crime is running rampant and the police are overrun.  A huge conglomerate called OCP is trying to develop a robotics program to assist with the mounting issues (and to secure their place in the political power structure).  I’m not sure who did the cinematography for The Grand Budapest Hotel, but they definitely went another direction from Anderson’s other films like Moonrise Kingdom or Rushmore.  The Grand Budapest Hotel had a completely different feel.  It was more sleek and stylized.  It had more cursing, more gun play and even some brief nudity.  It was as if Anderson was finally succumbing to the broad and baser appeal of tent-pole action flicks, but with his signature wink to the audience that it was all in good fun.

The film is crash course following a cybernetic police officer though his trials and tribulations.  This is typical of Andersen who is known for whimsical subject matters.  However, I was shocked at the amount of violence in The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Andersen does not strike me as someone who revels in mayhem and maybe I missed the subtle ironic point he was going after.  However, I didn’t feel that there was anything subtle about seeing a man shot gangland style with pump action shotguns until all that remains of his body is a pulsating stump of congealed viscera (this was in the first act!!).  Maybe it’s a metaphor for our reliance on social media?  I’m also not sure where a “Budapest Hotel” came into play.  Maybe the people of Detroit wanted their city to be more like the Hungarian capital, which is now a booming tech hub?

While it wasn’t at all what I expected, I thought it was a refreshing departure from a director who was running the risk of being pigeonholed.  Ralph Feinnes was superb as “Murphy” the robotic cop, although it was hard to tell it was him with the metal mask partially obstructing his face.  He definitely deserved the Oscar nod.

Overall, I’d give The Grand Budapest Hotel three stars.

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