Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review and Recast : The Grand Budapest Hotel

Adam and I love watching movies. He has a lot of really old movies that I've never seen. But he also has a lot of newer movies that I haven't seen. Wes Anderson is a really great director. You might know his movies; Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, or Moonrise Kingdom. Wes has a very distinct talent for creating intricate stories with a large cast. His characters are quirky, interesting, and very funny. If you're familiar with his films, you'll see some of the same actors appear again and again. His movies are generally a feast for the eyes, full of colors and strange costumes that make you feel like you're in another world. Recently, Adam and I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was such a great story. I was in love with the film from the start because of the gorgeous setting of the hotel itself. The film was so beautiful with so many sweeping and epic scenes. There was so much color in the hotel and in the other hotels featured. There was intrigue and suspense and a lot of humor. It's a great movie, and I highly recommend it. If you're unfamiliar with Wes Anderson, then this film is a great start. If you know him but you're unsure, I still encourage you to try this film. If you know him and love him, then you've seen it already, right? So you must be here for the recast. Because the only problem I have with this film was the very white cast.

It's sad, really. Because Wes Anderson creates such rich universes with these amazing characters and then he casts and recasts Team Whitey. I don't understand how a man who clearly possesses such vision can be so narrow with his cast selection. To be fair, he chooses really amazing actors. I'm not sure we'd know the Wilson Brothers if it weren't for Wes Anderson. If Wes can create such beautiful films with interesting characters and amazing acting performances, then why can't he cast more minorities in his roles? Is it because he started with a few whiteys and just kept on a roll with the same people? I'm not sure, but I'm gonna tweet this post to him and challenge him to have a more colorful cast for his next movie. Until then, here's what I would've done differently...

I'm going to start with the lead, M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes. I'm actually a huge fan of Ralph Fiennes, and I really loved him in this role. I think that if there were more diversity in this film, then I wouldn't be looking to replace him. But since this film was so monochromatic in its cast, I decided to start at the top.

In replacing Ralph, I had to think about how unique Anderson's characters are. I went looking for comedians and I started in sitcoms. There are a lot of funny latinos on primetime right now, many blacks, and even a couple of Asian comedic actors. When I googled "current sitcoms," I found a bunch of awesome actors with whom I'm familiar but who aren't really showing up on the big screen very much. One actor in particular stood out, and I thought she'd be a great replacement for Ralph's M. Gustave.

If you haven't seen Modern Family, you might've seen her in some Pepsi commercials or maybe you're super into Univision and you know her from her Spanish talk show days. Sofia Vergara is funny, and not just in that "sassy latina" stereotypical way. She's smart and has great comedic timing, and I'd love to see her dressed up, see her sexiness toned down, see that accent of hers toned down, and watch her handle a very dry and quiet sort of comedy. She's beautiful and I think that she would absolutely kill it in this role. I think that putting someone well known for her outrageous comedy into a much less outrageous role would be totally perfect for a Wes Anderson film. Sofia Vergara is the top-earning actress on tv, so I think she could definitely bring in new fans and sell tickets.

For the rest of the film, I could go on and on, but I'm not going to. Instead, I just grabbed a slice of the ensemble cast and decided to recast them. I chose the characters, M. Ivan, played by Bill Murray; Henckles, played by Edward Norton; Agatha, played by Saoirse Ronan; and M. Jean, played by Jason Schwartzman.

All of the actors in this ensemble were great in their roles. I am familiar with most of them and even really love some of them. Because of how tightly Wes Anderson tends to write his characters, I think they all tend to have equal weight in the film. I didn't feel like I needed to pick out specific characters to recast, just simply add some color to the mix. I also thought this movie was a bit dick-heavy, so I decided to throw in and extra chick.

Bill Murray has pretty much reached legend status. Something about his performance in Lost in Translation with Scarlett Johansson I think really put him over the top. If I'm going to replace him, I wanted to do it with an actor with equal legend status, like Tommy Chong. I think it would be a surprise to see Chong show up in any film, but an added bonus to see him in an Anderson film. For the character of Henckles, I wanted to do something different and throw a chick in the mix. Stephanie Beatriz is currently tearing it up in Brooklyn Nine Nine. Her character is a super tough detective and her comedic style is very dead pan. So basically, she's already kind of playing this role and it would be fun to see her maybe add a layer of ridiculousness to her acting.

It's hard to replace the look of Saoirse Ronan. She has those ginormous blue eyes that she seems to use almost exclusively in a wide-eyed gaze. Replacing her would take a fresh face with a similar ability to give that wide eyed stare and Brenda Song is just the right girl for the job. If you ever watched The Suite Life of Zack and Cody on the Disney Channel, then you'd be familiar with London Tipton's vacant gaze. If you were unfortunate enough to catch Dads last year, then you were lucky enough to see Song's comedy transformed with biting sarcasm. I think if you took the vacant gaze of London Tipton and added the spark of a more grown up Song, you could land on a very nice Agatha. And come on, isn't it just lazy to use blue eyes for every innocent girl character in every film ever?

Finally, I wanted to replace Schwartzman with an equally bizarre actor. Schwartzman has a quality that I can't put my finger on, but I love him in anything I've ever seen him do. I think he also has a cult fan base and to replace him requires someone with a similar quirk and following, so I chose Danny Pudi. You might know Danny from Community, and you probably love Abed. I think Pudi could easily step into Schwartzman's shoes without disappointing Anderson's fans.

So there you have it, just some of my thoughts on how to elevate Wes Anderson's films to the next level. Because let's face it, Hollywood is racist and everybody knows it. There are tons of awesome minority actors who can easily fill the shoes of all those Aryan actors we see all over the big screen. I don't expect Nicholas Sparks to change his ways any time soon, but I'd like to start seeing more women and more minorities in more interesting roles that don't rely on stereotypes. It's not hard. The actors are out there, so it's time to cast them.

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