The Grand Budapest Hotel

Marion DS Dreyfus
The trailer is, well, weird. It is episodic bits and pieces of the full film, but you never get a coherent notion of what the film is about. It’s Sacha Baron Cohen without the crudeness or the array of self-conscious cleverest boy in the room.

When you see the film itself, you understand why.

It is a solidly hilarious, but understated, shaggy dog tale. An as-told-to yarn about a marvelous mythical old hotel with the period furbelows and flourishes of a great majestic institution catering to the wealthy -- at one time -- and the down and out, as it slowly deliquesces. It is framed by F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law talking about the lustrous past. It is like It's a Mad Mad Mad World, but less noisily hectic, [slightly] more refined.

Okay, a tidbit thumbnail: It is the Campbell’s condensed soup adventures of Gustave H, a mythic concierge at a famous European hotel between the world wars, and his faithful servant, Zero Moustafa, the Lobby Boy who becomes his most trusted accomplice and confidante. Mixed in is the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the legal bataille royale for an enormous family fortune -- against the backdrop of a dramatically evolving, modernizing European continent.

The movie stars Ralph Fiennes, but he is just the topmost foam above the vast surge of hilarious cameo appearances by  beloved or irascible stars who are all but unidentifiable under moustaches, or bald pates,  or beards, or tattoos. A lot of the fun is decoding who was that official arresting the duvet chevalier M. Gustave? Who is that chambermaid cum confection spinner with a birthmark in the shape of Mexico? Who is the twittery old dowager, ready to plight her troth, with the agitated face and the powdered hair who adores M. Gustave? Adrien Brody plays against type, Willem Dafoe doesn’t. Bill Murray is smarmy, Jeff Goldblum is sticky, and on and on.

It is an effervescent and convoluted bonbon spun in grand style, and even if we explained it, so what? The fun is giggling through reel after reel, seeing all the silliness and unbelievable script goofiness that has been perpetrated. The whole thing looks like it could be miniaturized into a Hummel Swiss cuckoo clock, with hourly suavely concierges bedding dowagers to everyone’s delight. (Almost.)  And bad guys chasing good, followed by villainous stepbrothers and ugly kinfolk and nasty hooligans trying to wrest away the spoils. (Priceless painting.)

One knows for sure that the dozens of actors who leapt at the chance to do these marvelously counterintuitive roles must have had a hell of a good time in rehearsals. It has many of the qualities of a Feydeau farce. About the only thing that bothered us were the stolidly American nasality, the inexplicably flat American accents. One kept expecting the carnival carousel of characters herein to   skein out in guttural or mystifyingly unidentifiable European sonorities. This they resolutely did not do. Aside from this constant quibble, the movie is a foamy ice cream sundae of inebriated entertainment.

No bad scenes. No bad words -- um, save for a few in exasperation, well earned. Plunking you back into the past elegant century in mittel Europa.

If you have ears to hear and eyes to glom, enjoy this silliness and giggle yourself away for a coupla hours.

The trailer is, well, weird. It is episodic bits and pieces of the full film, but you never get a coherent notion of what the film is about. It’s Sacha Baron Cohen without the crudeness or the array of self-conscious cleverest boy in the room.

When you see the film itself, you understand why.

It is a solidly hilarious, but understated, shaggy dog tale. An as-told-to yarn about a marvelous mythical old hotel with the period furbelows and flourishes of a great majestic institution catering to the wealthy -- at one time -- and the down and out, as it slowly deliquesces. It is framed by F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law talking about the lustrous past. It is like It's a Mad Mad Mad World, but less noisily hectic, [slightly] more refined.

Okay, a tidbit thumbnail: It is the Campbell’s condensed soup adventures of Gustave H, a mythic concierge at a famous European hotel between the world wars, and his faithful servant, Zero Moustafa, the Lobby Boy who becomes his most trusted accomplice and confidante. Mixed in is the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the legal bataille royale for an enormous family fortune -- against the backdrop of a dramatically evolving, modernizing European continent.

The movie stars Ralph Fiennes, but he is just the topmost foam above the vast surge of hilarious cameo appearances by  beloved or irascible stars who are all but unidentifiable under moustaches, or bald pates,  or beards, or tattoos. A lot of the fun is decoding who was that official arresting the duvet chevalier M. Gustave? Who is that chambermaid cum confection spinner with a birthmark in the shape of Mexico? Who is the twittery old dowager, ready to plight her troth, with the agitated face and the powdered hair who adores M. Gustave? Adrien Brody plays against type, Willem Dafoe doesn’t. Bill Murray is smarmy, Jeff Goldblum is sticky, and on and on.

It is an effervescent and convoluted bonbon spun in grand style, and even if we explained it, so what? The fun is giggling through reel after reel, seeing all the silliness and unbelievable script goofiness that has been perpetrated. The whole thing looks like it could be miniaturized into a Hummel Swiss cuckoo clock, with hourly suavely concierges bedding dowagers to everyone’s delight. (Almost.)  And bad guys chasing good, followed by villainous stepbrothers and ugly kinfolk and nasty hooligans trying to wrest away the spoils. (Priceless painting.)

One knows for sure that the dozens of actors who leapt at the chance to do these marvelously counterintuitive roles must have had a hell of a good time in rehearsals. It has many of the qualities of a Feydeau farce. About the only thing that bothered us were the stolidly American nasality, the inexplicably flat American accents. One kept expecting the carnival carousel of characters herein to   skein out in guttural or mystifyingly unidentifiable European sonorities. This they resolutely did not do. Aside from this constant quibble, the movie is a foamy ice cream sundae of inebriated entertainment.

No bad scenes. No bad words -- um, save for a few in exasperation, well earned. Plunking you back into the past elegant century in mittel Europa.

If you have ears to hear and eyes to glom, enjoy this silliness and giggle yourself away for a coupla hours.