Saturday, August 2, 2014

How's that supposed to make me feel?

I worked in a hotel for years. Years. Specifically, I worked at a restaurant on the grounds, that had a beach on one side and a dolphin lagoon on the other. One night, minutes before closing, this family sits in my section and the mom dramatically waves me over.

Are you still open?

Um, (I look at the bartender who's formed his hands into a pistol and is aiming it at his own head) well...(I look at the lone cook and he's calmly pointing his largest knife at me out of his tiny service window) yeah. We're still open.

Good. Now listen up.

She begins to tell me how her children have some condition or something, and as a result, everything must be burned. Hot dog? Burn it. Bun, too. Put the fries in the deep fryer as long as you can, take them out, and do it again.

Let me tell you something, dear reader. The only thing worse than entering a restaurant minutes before closing, is asking for every single item in your meal to be well done. But as an indentured servant server at major hotel, my job was to make you happy. The way I saw it, maybe I'd get 15%, maybe you'd put me in your will. Oh, what? My request is ridiculous?

In The Grand Budapest Hotel, writer/director Wes Anderson's latest, ridiculous requests are the norm, and each seems to set off a seemingly endless cavalcade of bizarre people doing bizarre things. While that's generally my cup of herbal tea with the teabag on the side and a thimble full of fresh honey, I'm going to be completely honest with you when I say that it didn't really work for me. Almost at all. I consider myself an ardent Wes Anderson supporter, and with Grand Budapest his trademark quirk lost eventually lost its appeal. Instead of laughing out loud as I had anticipated, I found myself merely smiling politely.

It's not all bad, so please, fellow Anderson defenders, chill the f--k out, okay? Put the meticulously crafted knickknack down and go back to your hardcover book. I didn't hate the movie. I just think that the style finally caught and killed the substance, and it was a bloodbath. But an entertaining one nonetheless.

I don't think I can do the story justice, so I'll keep it brief. A guy tells the story of another guy telling a story about a concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel. The concierge in question, the liberally perfumed M. Gustave (a hilarious Ralph Fiennes), was the pulse of a once amazing hotel, the titular Grand Budapest. Over the years Gustave took great care of his customers, and when hotel regular Madame D. passes away, she leaves him a very valuable painting. Obviously, her family is furious, and it seems they will do anything to stop this from happening. Gustave slips away with the help of a lobby boy named Zero.

From there a great number of things happen and a great number of famous faces show up to do those things, but as I mentioned, I feel like Anderson's style detracts from the story at hand. The rapid fire dialogue can be damn near inaudible, and I swear there isn't a close up to be found. Imagine sitting at a bus station watching all the weirdos, and every two minutes turning in your seat exactly 90 degrees, and you have a taste of what this film was like. Maybe it would be better a second time, I'm just not really looking to revisit it anytime soon.

Speaking of something you should likely never visit in the first place, here are those tough customers the Yays and Boos. They only drink what M. Gustave drinks: chilled water with no ice. (honestly, that ridiculous demand cracked me up for five minutes)


  • What a cast! Jeff Goldblum, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Saoirse Ronan, Tom Wilkinson and more. It's like an arthouse Expendables.
  • The R rating. Man, I loved all the cursing so much, it has me shaking like a shitting dog.
  • Gustave ends up in jail, and it's safe to say he's a hardcore mofo, even if he's still basically a concierge there, too.
  • Willem Dafoe. Does this guy have the best face alive? He's scary. Scary awesome.
  • Harvey Kietel shows up and is his usual awesome self. Dude looked jacked, too. As good as he was, Giant Scar Guy might have been even better.
  • From Z to A. Aww...
  • Is he flirting with you? Yes. Yes he is.
  • An underground room full of guards are playing poker when our prison escapees accidentally stumble upon them. What happens is great enough, but then this is said: I suppose you'd call that a draw. I actually backed that up and watched it again.
  • And finally, The Society of the Crossed Keys. Man these guys are awesome. I loved how they tried to tip Murray, but he politely declined. That moment was pretty much perfect.
  • Stylistically, it was very cool, but damn did we spend a lot of time 1.33:1. I get why, sure, but at least give me some close ups then, okay?
  • Damn it. Goldblum's injury still makes me wince days later. Ouch.
  • And finally, as there aren't many small things to Boo about, let me state that the hype certainly didn't help this one either. As I've said, I love Anderson, and still do, but I seriously thought this was going to be one of the best movies of the last decade after the early word got out. Did I completely miss the point? Or does the boner that Anderson's style give them ultimately impair their judgment? Maybe both?
My friend is a big Wes Anderson guy, and also spent years working at hotel, and when I texted him my thoughts on this one, I honestly think he got pissed. He said that he asked a half-dozen other Wes Anderson fans and they all thought this film was fantastic. I tried to get out of him why he liked it, but he hasn't returned my last text for almost a week now. So in the spirit or ridiculous requests, I have one for him, too. 

If it wouldn't be too much trouble, is there any chance you could f--k off? You know, when you get a minute, thanks!


  1. I felt the same way. I didn't hate the film, but it wasn't his best. It was so random and just didn't blend together very well. Great review! I served too for a few years in high school, and I hated getting people before closing time like that. Although my enemy was making milkshakes.

    1. Exactly. Weird shit kept happening, but none if it seemed to matter that much.

      Milkshakes? We had a bartender for those, but hey,I'm with you, f--k milkshakes.

  2. When I was a waitress, inevitably some people would come in right at closing -- shortly before midnight -- camp out and refuse to leave. Maybe I should have used that line: "If it wouldn't be too much trouble, is there any chance you could f--k off? You know, when you get a minute, thanks!"

    I enjoyed this movie, but I get where you're coming from about style over substance. Excellent review!

    How are you doing these days? Are you back to teaching?

    Steph (aka Irene McKenna)

    1.'re like a covert agent. I was convinced it was you...but, didn't want to blow your cover.

      'Camp out' I almost forgot that term. As in, I've got these f--king campers on table 12! Ha! the good/terrible old days.

      I will be back in the classroom soon, and not sure how to feel about it. Eh, I'll probably tell the whole story in an intro a couple of months from now....

      As for this movie? Glad you liked it. I generally love Wes' stuff, but this one felt too fluffy for my likings, and his stuff is usually pretty f--king fluffy, you know?

  3. I remember a Michael J. Fox movie called 'For Love Or Money' and there were a lot of ridiculous request made to the hotel concierge. Yet he made them happen so often so that the customers would then owe him a favour.

    Is this a random story? Well, almost as random as The Grand Budapest Hotel then :)

    I'd say that I'm a fan of Wes Anderson, but I rarely laugh out loud while watching his movies (with the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox). The Grand Budapest I enjoyed, but would put on the top of his work.

    1. I don't think I ever saw For Love or Money, but like you, I loves me some Michael J. Fox. Well, not as much as you...but still.

      I thought Grand Budapest was either too weird, or I simply wasn't in the mood for it when I saw it. I started late at night, and instantly felt a million times more tired then five minutes after I started it.

      Oh, and as for 'random stories'? If there's a site on the web that's all about stories that seem to have no place....well, you've found it.

  4. I despise Anderson (he has some real issues with animals and his pretentious style over substance thing really annoys me) but I very much liked this one.

    I don't know if it was the cat and not dog being thrown out, Ralph Fiennes or all the swearing (I do love swearing in English) but I really enjoyed the movie. Unlike other Anderson movies for me this one had actual story and structure and the characters traveled from A to B to C in clear and coherent way without adolescent hipsters, dogs shot with arrows and whatever other crap happened in Moonrise Kingdom etc.

    And I loved Adrien Brody's performance, he was hysterical. Goldblum's injury. Ouch indeed.

    1. Have you ever seen Meet Joe Black? How there's that running joke about 'death and taxes'? I'm adding you to that list. The only things in life that are an absolute certainty, are death, taxes and the fact that I will never, ever know how you'll feel about a movie. It's quite beautiful, really. Like Brad Pitt in a tux, beautiful.

      Anyway, I'm glad you liked it, and for the most part, that a lot of people liked it. I just found it tedious, despite the sort of rapid-fire, slapsticky pace of the whole thing. You can never go wrong with Fiennes, especially when he's swearing like a sailor. Brody was awesome, too. I love that guy.

      But, damn. I liked Moonrise about a twenty times more than this one!

  5. Oh, I'm gonna visit all my waiter friends this summer and ask for chilled water with no ice now.

    Really want to see this film because of the poster that hung on my wall for half a year. I don't think it's gonna be that great, but I'd still like to see that style vs content bloodbath.

    1. I hope those waiters (*cough-servers-cough*) are really your friends, like, really really, because trust me, people who work at restaurants? They hate you. You, of course, being mankind. They hate everyone.

      Please, see the movie and come back here and tell me I'm totally wrong and a huge a-hole because of it. I wanted this to be GREAT, so maybe I was just in a bad mood or something. i hear that's been going around a lot lately.

  6. Loved that story in the beginning. What an... odd request. I mean really, everything burnt? Anyhow, I'm fully with you on this film. Hell of a lot of style that outweighed its substance. I enjoyed my time with it, but I'll probably never have a need to revisit it.

    1. Yeah, man. She was like Donald Sutherland in Backdraft.

      After I posted this, I went back and read your review and you nailed it. You said this one was going to be divisive. Even though I truly think that I might have missed something, or simply was recovering from of an overdose of quirk, I actually think I'd like it more the second time.

      But, that said, I'm pretty sure there's no way in Hell I'm going back.

  7. I think my affection for this film stems solely on my absolute love of Fiennes performance. It's is a comedic masterclass! He's effing brilliant here. The film is not Anderson's best, emotionally, but it is one of his joke for joke funniest films. I laughed from start to finish.

    1. I can't argue with anyone that loved Fiennes in this. Nope. He's great.

      I just wanted a reason to give a shit about him and found it increasingly hard to do so. But, to your point, it was pretty funny (at times).