The Grand Budapest Hotel: a girl reads a book’s prologue, which the author personally sets up; his younger self meeting a hotel owner, who tells him how he came to own a hotel, after he helped a concierge that was once framed for murder. Only that last part is necessary, but hey, this is a Wes Anderson film so suck up the whimsical details you boringly normal douchebag! The ensemble cast is phenomenal – if a little male-centric – to the point where it becomes distracting, but to be fair, the less time you spend thinking about the story the better. Fiennes makes this way funnier than it should have been with his dashing, sweary, and thoroughly entertaining concierge role – an outstanding a piece of comedy-driven anti-casting, in fact, most actors appear to enjoy playing their exaggerated slapstick characters – and on the whole, they’re all fun to watch. There are plenty of great cinematic techniques resurrected here; with models, scale, depth and focus all being used to powerful effect. The cinematography is also meticulous – composition, shapes, balance, symmetry… it’s the epitome of mise-en-scène (any screenshot could be a painting) making Anderson one of the few directors around that give Park Chan–Wook a run for his money. Substance-wise however is where the film falls over, as it feels very light – the story is all shine and no significance beyond the homage to old-timey farces. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a very unique movie, and Anderson’s most entertaining & accessible film to date. Like one of Mendl’s pastries it’s beautiful and admirable, but very light and fluffy.
Slackers: 3 guys cheat their way through college, one falls for a girl and jeopardises their masterplan. There’s some slapstick, gross outs, weirdness and a few solid running gags to keep you entertained throughout. All actors do as good a job as you’d expect from a teen comedy but Schwartzman tops the class by making “Cool Ethan” seem genuinely aberrant and spooky – probably what Max Fisher would be like when he grows up! Quite a few big names in this; Jason Segel before he became Mr generic comedy, Devon Sawa while he was on form and a some blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em cameos from the likes of Gina Gershon (!!) and Cameron Diaz. Despite a low budget it has a certain charm, unique style and the songs throughout are genuinely funny. You get the feeling that it was trying to ride the wave of success from then-recent college flicks like Road Trip and American Pie and although it’s falls short, any teen comedy will find it hard to match those heavyweights. One of my personal favourites, mostly for the gags. Totally watchable comedy / stoner flick.
Rushmore: follows the ‘love triangle’ between a teacher, pupil and local businessman. While this put Anderson and Schwartzman on the map – and re-ignited Murray’s career – they’re three guys that haven’t really drifted far from their comfort zone since: still, this is probably the best example of all three on form. The main problem I have with Anderson’s films is that they make weird things like stalking someone or a middle-aged man befriending a teenager seem normal, even cool. Like the rest of his films Rushmore is laden with mixed messages about father figures, retro music, humor, and quirky scenes / shots / dialogue (it’s impossible to describe any of his films without using ‘leftfield’, ‘offbeat’, ‘quirky’ et al). More so than his other features, Rushmore has been embraced by the indie crowd and pop culture – and enjoys a hardcore cult following. Personally, I think it’s good but not great. Pretty much the Napoleon Dynamite of the 90’s; you’ll either love, loathe or just not plain old not get it – I’m still in the later camp after several viewings. If you’re wanting to see any Anderson, Schwartzman or (modern) Murray film, best stick with this.