In one of the original story-convergence tales, Grand Hotel takes the lives a bunch of random people and jumbles them together like someone threw a bunch of movies in a box and tried to pull them out in some manageable order. Except this one actually does a good job of it and tells a surprisingly well-rounded story with a cast of characters that are all very alike in very different ways…if that makes any fucking sense.
The movie starts with an employee saying the line “Grand Hotel. People come. People go. Nothing ever happens” which is about as obvious of bullshit as a big white van parked across the street that hasn’t moved for five days and has a giant sign printed on it that says “Not A Suspicious Van, Inc.” In walk our cast of characters, all of which come from different walks of life, but all of them have the same struggle: they are all searching for something they haven’t had before be it money, a companion, a job, job security, or a lust for life. They are a mix of people who could live at the most expensive hotel in Berlin and people who would look out of place even if they worked there. It’s a very wide variety. Not Magnolia wide, but wide.
It spends a good hour focusing on each person’s story, but the encompassing arc is around a Baron who is actually a hotel thief out to steal pearls from a famous dancer (whose search is for a companion…this is actually shorter to say than their names, trust me). Needing to repay a debt with some bad people he makes his way into “companion’s” room and instead of stealing the dancer’s pearls, steals her heart instead (shut up, it’s 1932, I’m allowed to be cheesy). No longer able to steal from her for personal reasons, he moves onto other targets, the other main characters; his morality stepping in each time making an easy task nearly impossible rendering him the worst thief ever. Regardless, it is a touching story that doesn’t take any stupid outs that a movie of the same premise made today would have been littered with for comedic effect, but then again Four Rooms is an amazing, amazing movie that has the same idea that I invite everyone to watch.
I have to admit I was very surprised that for a film that was done in 1932, I didn’t feel like “I had to be there” to understand it, which is the true sign of a timeless classic. Every character was deep with their own wit and own contribution to the story that greatly enhanced the experience and impacted everyone else’s. Though stereotypes can easily separate heroes and villains in a movie like this, it never seemed like a battle of classes, despite everyone staying true to their form. There are no backstories here (except one, Mr. “Lust for Life”) that inform us of why someone has gotten this way, even with the thieving Baron. The Grand Hotel doesn’t care, neither should we. Just sit back and watch these lives mix and mingle and see what happens. And casually, when the week is over, our characters leave and new ones come in and the game begins again, like 1408 minus the death…oh wait…never mind.
I was not expecting the strong, methodical, wonderfully acted, wonderfully orchestrated movie that was Grand Hotel and can safely say that if a movie were made like this again today by someone who took its revitalization and modernization seriously, it could still easily turn out to be an incredible film. The transitions to different characters were seamless and they all came together perfectly and without any forced effort. It never got uncomfortable to see these lives converge and when it was all over you could tell that everyone left the hotel with a provocative new outlook on life. And with a sweet twist is that same employee from the beginning uttering the words "Grand Hotel. People come. People go. Nothing ever happens."
Grand Hotel’s bid and win for Best Picture makes absolutely perfect sense and was a very pleasant watch from start to finish. Highly recommended by me, I give it a very strong 8 dustbusters out of 10.