By Taylor Rexrode
After weeks of waiting, Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” arrived in Waco theaters, and I was one of the first in line to see it. Like any movie I spend weeks waiting to see, I had high expectations.
I expected to be awed by the cinematography — the beauty of the scenery and the interesting camera angles — but I did not expect to be won over by its humor.
It was not just beautiful and complex with its own story-within-a-story-within-a-story “Inception” structure; it also had me laughing hysterically.
I left the theater with enough inappropriate, random one-liners to make people think I had seen a Simon Pegg movie.
This film had a dry, witty quality to it that is rare in films. Most comedies these days are like bad fart jokes — you laugh because it’s uncomfortable but you don’t actually find it intellectually funny or all that familiar.
This film used its characterization more than anything to make the story both engaging and humorous. (Though, to be fair, it also had its fair share of off-color, fart joke material with homophobic slurs and cats being thrown out second-story windows.)
The film tells the story of concierge M. Gustave H, played by Ralph Fiennes, who is on the run for being framed for the murder of his rich, deceased lover. He is joined by his sidekick Zero, played by Tony Revolori, who is the hotel lobby boy.
Gustave H. is very prim and proper, a characterization that carries much of the film’s humor. It’s the kind of pompous air that you can only relate to his position as the concierge of the hotel but that can often be confused with characters like Geoffrey from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or Alfred from the Batman franchise.
Unlike these butler figures, Gustave stands out because he thinks he is so much more than just a concierge. He is the royal prince of concierges dressed in a trim purple tuxedo. He governs his hotel sharply, often lecturing at a podium to the other hotel workers during their daily meals. He maintains upper-class connections by “entertaining” elderly, aristocratic women in their rooms, something that he takes great prides in telling others. He maintains composure and a sense of duty even after he is imprisoned by offering mushy porridge “in need of salt” to inmates via a trolley cart.
He wins viewers with his charm, which is only amplified when he is joined by Zero. Zero is young and insecure, and he feeds on everything Gustave says about how to be a great lobby boy. Zero draws a mustache on his upper lip everyday with a charcoal pencil to look more grown up. He falls in love with a girl who has a birthmark on her face shaped like Mexico. His innocence is such a great contrast to Gustave’s pomposity.
Though Gustave and Zero are great characters, perhaps my favorite part of the film was a single character: Jopling, played by Willem Dafoe. Jopling serves as the hitman of the movie, trying to take down Gustave and Zero.
He looks like a tired, shrunken-faced vampire with an underbite who wears head-to-toe black leather. That image alone should be enough to make this movie comedic gold.
I think this film is a must-see for fans of cinematography and witty humor. This is definitely a film I would want to see again, if only to see that cat tossed out the window one more time.