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How 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Helped a Wes Anderson Hater Change (Sorta)

Photo: Courtesy Photo, License: N/A

Courtesy Photo

M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and Zero (Tony Revolori) try to charm their way out of one of many sticky situations in The Grand Budapest Hotel


My name is David Riedel. You may know me as a film critic who sometimes writes reviews for the Current. Or you may not. But you’ll probably remember the following sentence because it contains four hot words: “Fucking,” “hate” and “Wes Anderson.”

I fucking hate Wes Anderson’s movies.

It feels really good to get that off my chest. I can’t count how many times I’ve been among a group of critics and been the only one who can’t stand the guy’s work. Fucking can’t stand the twee sets, the precious music, the precocious kids who still, after all, are just kids, and the fucking everything else.

(I also don’t like writing reviews in first person but the idea of using such loathsome language really demanded I own it.)

Lest you think I’m without sin and casting the first stone, let me assure you: Nah, I’ve sinned. And fuck The Royal Tenenbaums. Fuck Bottle Rocket (but not as much as The Royal Tenenbaums). Fuck Moonrise Kingdom, and really fuck The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. “I’m part gay,” says Jeff Goldblum’s character at one point in that movie. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

And though I haven’t seen Fantastic Mr. Fox or The Darjeeling Limited, fuck them, too. That last sentence is terrifically unfair, but given how I feel about the rest of the man’s oeuvre, why not go ahead and assume I’ll hate those movies, too.

Look, I know I’m in the minority. I’ll probably have my critic’s card revoked, and I can see my screening invitations drying up. I get that there are people who like Wes Anderson. They like the dollhouse feel and intentionally odd dialogue and the long tracking shots and his use of a tripod.

Maybe that’s why I like Rushmore. There was a time when Anderson was fresh. Rushmore is the first wise-beyond-his-years kid in an Anderson movie. It has Bill Murray’s remarkably subtle performance (look at his face when he learns Max’s father is a barber). Maybe it’s Anderson operating on all thrusters before he realized he had an audience and could coast on his perceived charm.

I have no idea what motivates Wes Anderson. Like my predetermined unviewed dislike for Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Darjeeling Limited, it’s unfair of me to speculate.

And that brings me to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Unfortunately for my hate-filled heart, I have to admit it ain’t half bad. Sure, it looks like a hipster’s wet dream and it has a few anti-gay gags in it that are as offensive as the “part-gay” bit in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. (And the villain utters the gay jokes here, so perhaps they can be defended.) But whatever. The movie ain’t half bad.

See, it’s a caper, and capers are fun, see? And like most capers, it has lots of twists and turns and stops and starts. The Grand Budapest Hotel begins in the present day, and then it zips back to the mid-1980s, and then it zips back to the late-1960s, and then it zips back to the 1930s.

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