Thursday, April 3, 2014

If You're Feeling An Urge to Giggle

Look at the movie page in your local newspaper.  Find one film that's not about the end of civilization as we know it.  Darkness and evil prevail over all of them.  The Hollywood development assholes have such ugly and sinister lives that this point-of-view infects every production that they greenlight.

This is why it can be so refreshing to find a movie that is just plain enjoyable.  One that you can feel comfortable just sitting and laughing.  Oh, I don't mean the gross kind of humor you'd find in some Judd Apatow mess.  Or anything with Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, or Seth Rogan. 

I'm talking pure and unadulterated fun.

And this is why Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" should be on your to-see list. 

Most people don't even know who director Wes Anderson is.  Indeed, he's made a whole bunch of movies that you probably haven't seen or even heard of.  Most play at those art house theaters where they sell espresso instead of soda and scones in lieu of buttered popcorn.  He's only 44, but already Anderson's amassed quite the film portfolio.


"Bottle Rocket."

"The Royal Tenenbaums."

"The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou."

"The Darjeeling Limited."

Never heard of them?  I thought so.

These are not the type of movies that will open big on Memorial Day weekend.  And, admittedly, Anderson's small films are all acquired tastes.  But you can be sure that, if you see one of his concoctions, it will be unlike anything that you have seen before.  That, in effect, is his style.  No two movies will look even remotely alike.

To me, Anderson really hit a home run with last year's "Moonrise Kingdom."  Clever, charming, and unlike anything I have seen before.

Now, with "The Grand Budapest Hotel," he's circling the bases again.   With a film that is weird, clever, and charming.   Also, once again, unlike anything I have seen before.

When you go to a movie, you want to see something new.  Like him or not, Wes Anderson gives you that every time you plunk down your fifteen bucks.

To tell you what "The Grand Budapest Hotel is about would be impossible.  Truth be told, I am not be entirely sure.  Told in flashback, we hear of the adventures of a hotel manager and a young lobby boy toiling at some grand 1930s residence tucked away in some unknown European country.  Where is it?  Who cares?  It's all make-believe and you are immediately dragged along on this fairy tale.

There is a war happening.  That evil looking army may or may not be the Nazis.  There are stolen paintings and dastardly villains who clip off fingers and slalom chases that would make even James Bond nauseous.  If you try and connect any of these dots, you will be disappointed.  Things happen all around you and it is impossible to make heads or tails of any of it.

Meanwhile, throughout, there is a smile on your face.   And a giggle that escapes from your mouth every forty-five seconds.  What's so funny?  I don't know.

And who cares?

"The Grand Budapest Hotel," like most of Anderson's films, is delightful to the eye.  The set design in this one is so marvelous and lovely to look at that you often don't listen to the dialogue.  Indeed, the scale replica used for the hotel itself was on display in the lobby of the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood where I saw it.  Your eyes are never cheated when it comes to a Wes Anderson movie.

While none of his films look alike, the one constant throughout all his work is now a cast of supporting actors that he uses over and over.  In much the same way that director Preston Sturges developed his own repertory company, Anderson goes to the well with folks like Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban and the like.  It's refreshing to know that any Wes Anderson will give you some familiar and dependable faces.

But that's about all that is predictable about an Anderson film.  But, as his career plays out, we are starting to see the expected.   Every movie will give you something unexpected.   You may not understand the plot.  You may be totally confused by the ending. 

 But, more often than not, you will be giggling all the way through.

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Vegetable stir fry.


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