"The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "Wedding Crashers" are this week's picks.
Welcome to the first installment of Hinge Blog, February's themed Binge Blog month dedicated to romances that are the secret backbones of nonromance movies. Thank you for deciding to stay with us. We have two great selections for you today and have left chocolate hearts on your pillows, but before we leave you to it, I do want to take a moment to point out a few things.
One: Sunday is the Oscars. If you have not yet read Pam Nadon's predictions for the show, change that. I'll go on the record and state that I'm rooting for "Joker" to lose all its nominations (it won't) and for "Parasite" and "Little Women" to win as may as they can (we'll see). Also, if you missed my Oscars snubs when the nominations came out, well guess what? You can still read those too. What a country!
Two: Netflix announced that you can now turn off the auto-play feature on its home page. Thank the heavens above for that. Never again will you be forced to have a streaming service yell at you while deciding what to watch.
OK, let's get to exploring that four-letter word that mystifies so many of us.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)
Google Play, rated R, 100 minutes
Wes Anderson’s magnum opus and as close to a perfect comedy as you can get, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is remembered by most as Ray Fiennes’ finest acting to date, a characterization with which I would agree. He was born to be both a legendarily strict and efficient concierge and also a doofus who gets framed for murder.
The film is less often remembered for its romance(s), but the one between Tony Revolori’s Zero and Saoirse Ronan’s Agatha is sweeter than the chocolate pastries Agatha bakes. A thing about me is that I love a twee romance. I want to be charmed out the wazoo. Give me teens running away together after knowing each other for three days. Give me two adults having a first date at a planetarium after hours. Give me someone proposing at the site of their first date, with the bride’s whole hometown (it’s always a small town) waiting outside. That stuff is like crack to me.
This being the case, of course I love Wes Anderson, the king of modern twee. And of course I love Zero, the lobby boy, and Agatha, the pastry chef, who meet while in hiding and team up to steal a priceless painting, then escape said heist by falling onto a truck of Agatha’s confectionery delights. It’s perfectly absurd and absurdly perfect.
While Ronan has become a mega-star since the release of “Budapest” — she won’t win Best Actress on Sunday, but she should — Revolori has stayed relatively unheralded, especially as a leading man, outside of 2018’s “The Long Dumb Road.” I don’t totally get why this is. He’s a good actor with good comedic timing and an expressive face, especially his eyebrows. He’s a wonderful fit in Anderson’s movies. (He’ll be in Anderson’s new one, “The French Dispatch,” later this year.) His and Ronan’s chemistry radiates, which makes the film’s ending so melancholy.
Agatha’s death — don’t get mad at me, it’s been out six years — hurts, especially because their love never wavered. This isn’t a will-they-or-won’t-they. They were in love, they had adventures, they had a child, and then Agatha and the child die of natural causes, leaving Zero as Gustave’s sole heir to the hotel, which he keeps open in Agatha’s memory. You don’t see it, only hearing it told in passing. The deaths are not presented as a tragedy but as a side effect of the human condition. Every relationship eventually ends. In that way, this relationship is the most realistic of all.
*Remembers February is supposed to be a happy month on the blog*
Sorry, sorry. Let’s move on to a film with no death whatsoever.
“Wedding Crashers” (2005)
Google Play, rated R, 119 minutes
“Wedding Crashers” is certainly not a film without problems. The entire opening “bedding” montage is unnecessary, to put it mildly. The portrayal of Todd (Keir O’Donnell) as a sexual predator, and choosing to play it for laughs because he’s gay (?), is also gross. Actually, the whole film seems to think that sexual harassment/violence is the funniest joke in the world.
That said, I’d be lying if I tried to hide my love for this movie. It was one of the first “adult” comedies I watched and at the time liked it because of the silly banter between Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and because it largely takes place in my home state — crab cakes and football ARE what Maryland does, after all.
Also the Will Ferrell cameo, which is maybe the height of this type of comedy.
As I get older, I still love the Ferrell scene, but most of my joy comes from the relationship between Wilson and Rachel McAdams, whose comedic praises I have sung in the past. She’s wonderful again here, playing a daughter of the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (Christopher Walken) who is already in a relationship when she meets Wilson’s schlubby lawyer. The pair have a chemistry bubblier than just-popped champagne. Their requisite meet-cute, where Wilson pretends to have the power to guess every wedding gift, is so charming, and every time they smile at each other, I want to fly to Paris and drink red wine under the stars.
McAdams does a lot with an underwritten character. She’s too good for this film, honestly, but she makes it work. The way she whispers “I can’t marry you” to Bradley Cooper in the film’s final scene is incredible stuff. Without her and Wilson, this movie would be basically useless.
I do, though, have to give props to Cooper in one of his first big roles, for playing a heck of a dickhead. He should do another comedy now and again. He’s funny!
Anyway, this movie kinda sucks now, but it’s worth watching because I love love. And Rachel McAdams.