Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Always Be My Maybe, or: Quail Egg Parfait

I love a food movie. I love a story of a career woman stepping all over dirtbag men on her way to the top. And I love an unexpected celebrity cameo. All of these interests combine in this week’s pick–though do they complement each other perfectly or fight for dominance in the dish that is this film? Read on to find out!

The Film:

Always Be My Maybe

The Premise:

Childhood besties Sasha and Mike seemed destined to end up together but missed their chance years ago. Will history repeat itself 16 years later?

The Ramble:

Growing up in San Francisco in the 1990s, Sasha and Mike are inseparable friends who also sport a lot of plaid and shaggy boy band hair. With frequently absent parents, Sasha naturally becomes part of Mike’s family, even learning to cook from his mom Judy.

Two Asian-American kids are dressed as characters from the movie Wayne's World.

Everything changes when an accident ends Judy’s life, leaving both Sasha and Mike devastated. Mike decides he won’t go to college in favor of staying home and focusing on his band, while Sasha seeks comfort by taking their relationship to the next level.

Their romance isn’t meant to last, as a fight immediately after their hookup leads to a falling out. Sasha leaves San Francisco without looking back, and the two don’t speak for 16 years.

In the present, Sasha is a rising celebrity chef with a successful fiancé who also promotes her brand. Just before leaving New York to open a new restaurant in San Francisco, Sasha’s fiancé decides to accept a role that will take him to India with other celebrity chefs. Upset but trying to make the best of things, Sasha agrees to their temporary separation.

A man and woman sit in the back of a limousine, looking at their phones instead of each other.

When she arrives in San Francisco, Sasha rents a gorgeous house that is conspicuously missing an A/C unit. Childhood friend Veronica, who now works for Sasha, hires Mike’s father Harry to work on the A/C installation. Little does she know that Mike is now working with his father, setting up an awkward reunion between Sasha and Mike. Sasha is completely uninterested when she’s invited to Mike’s gig, but attending gets her out of the house and gives her a chance to avoid her parents.

After the gig, Mike’s girlfriend Jenny cooks dinner for Sasha and constantly calls Mike “babe.” Sasha loudly and rudely breaks up with her fiancé over the phone at a child’s birthday party, leaving Jenny as the only obstacle between her and Mike. However, Sasha ends up with a celebrity boyfriend after catering a ritzy event, with hilariously devastating results.

At a fancy party, a woman dressed in a gold dress holds the elbow of a man in a t-shirt and oversized jacket.

Even though you can easily Google the celebrity cameo here that truly makes the film, I won’t spoil it here. A double date between the two couples predictably ends badly…though it brings Sasha and Mike together again.

However, their relationship seems doomed to fail when Sasha is determined to leave for New York as planned, while Mike considers San Francisco home–and resents his new role as purse holder for Sasha at fancy black tie events.

Can Sasha and Mike find a way past these obstacles and back to each other?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I appreciate the surprising thoughtfulness of this film about success, ambition, and the difference between being satisfied and simply settling. These themes are analyzed through a feminist lens, as we take a look at Mike’s reluctance to support Sasha’s career and be a “regular guy.” We are immersed in the Asian-American culture of San Francisco too, without feeling like spectators doing cultural tourism. And the take on high-end restaurants and the culture of celebrity chefs is quite sharp (and the quail egg parfait Mike is repeatedly offered sounds vile).

I also absolutely love Mike’s father and his sideplot romance with a Diana Ross impersonator. Most of the other minor characters don’t feel as fully realized, however. Overall, I wanted this to be funnier. The celebrity cameo is the absolute highlight of the film and is genuinely hysterical, but I feel it should have a lot more going for it considering the talent involved. Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half(ish), though.

Would my darling blog wife stalk this one’s Facebook profile in secret or pretend not to know it in public? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Grand Budapest Hotel, or: Courtesan au Chocolat Si’l Vous Plaît

This week’s entry in Blog Free or Die Hard is one of my favorite films and I might have cried a little when Christa suggested it.  I would watch this one with you 1,000 times, blog wife.  Speaking of which, how many times have I seen this film (you may ask yourself)?  Er, more than once…

The Film:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Where to Watch:

Figure it out

The Premise:

An unnamed author relates the story of M. Gustave, eccentric hotel concierge, and his protégé, Zero Mostafa.

The Uncondensed Version:

I love this film, but it takes the frame story concept a little bit too far:  it’s a story in a story in a story.  In a story.  But it’s a great one, so I’ll let it slide.  And good lord, I don’t think any critic could possibly believe there are too few cameos in this.  It’s like everyone who was even once considered for a role in a Wes Anderson film ended up in this.  Even so, the cameos are pretty excellent.

Our story is based on a fictional book (inspired by a real author’s works), which is in turn based on a lobby boy’s story about his mentor and friend, M. Gustave.  Aforementioned lobby boy is now the owner of the titular Grand Budapest Hotel, now a shadow of its former self.  The author of the story notices this man, Zero Mostafa, because he carries an air of sadness and loneliness.

The author (unnamed as far as I know, but I won’t pretend I’m wonderful at remembering character names) jumps at the chance to have dinner with Zero and hear his story.

Zero’s story introduces M. Gustave, the rather eccentric hotel concierge.  As Zero observes, one of M. Gustave’s, er “other duties as assigned” is to be a sort of male escort to wealthy old blonde ladies.  One of these ladies is played by a basically unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, who is reluctant to leave the hotel as she’s had a premonition of her death.

Gustave reassures her and sends her on her way home, so all must end well, mustn’t it?

hotel staff dressed in purple escort an elderly woman who is dressed in elaborate fashion up an elevator
But seriously, Tilda Swinton.  WHAT.

At this point, Zero enters the story as the newly hired lobby boy that M. Gustave is quite irked he never signed off on.  However, he comes around quite quickly and teaches Zero the ways of being a lobby boy.  It’s because of his work as a lobby boy that Zero meets Agatha (played by Saoirse Ronan, who I’m a bit obsessed with).  Agatha works in Mendl’s, the local bakery whose special is a courtesan au chocolat.

a young blonde woman with a scar shaped like Mexico bicycles, balancing many pink bakery boxes
Aaaaaaaaand no one ever explains that scar.

The GBH routine is thrown into chaos when M. Gustave receives bad news about Tilda Swinton (I reiterate that I’m terrible at remembering character names) and rushes to her side along with Zero.  In a moment that becomes of great significance later in the plot, Zero and M. Gustave are stopped during their train journey and roughed up a bit by a rather fascist military force.  Luckily, Edward Norton with a really great moustache intervenes.

By the time M. Gustave and Zero arrive Tilda’s estate (incidentally, a castle), she has died.  On the bright side, she’s left a priceless painting to M. Gustave, “Boy with Apple.”  Tilda’s son, Dmitri, is less than thrilled and, in fact punches M. Gustave, insisting he leave immediately.  M. Gustave and Zero are only too happy to oblige, especially as they manage to smuggle “Boy with Apple” along.

a man on a train unveils a painting to another man, who is seen in the reflection of a small mirror
I love this shot.  And this scene.  And everything about this movie.

Once safely aboard the train, M. Gustave plans to sell the painting, leave the country with Zero before war breaks out, and make Zero his only heir.  This plan is interrupted when M. Gustave is arrested for the murder of Tilda’s character and imprisoned.  As you might expect, this leads to an elaborate prison break attempt.  Additionally, terrifying Willem Dafoe trying to track down the painting at any cost, including murder.  So.  Many.  Murders.

I don’t want to give absolutely everything away, but all of this results in a call to the secret society of concierges, a dramatic high speed sled chase, war breaking out, a shootout in the Grand Budapest Hotel, and the discovery of a secret other will.

The film is fundamentally about M. Gustave and Zero’s relationship, which becomes a father/son relationship as neither has biological family alive.  M. Gustave is one of my favorite characters in film, both committed to behaving properly and in the best interests of the hotel while simultaneously being incredibly self-interested and judgmental.  This film is also a great deal about the end of an era in the aftermath of war, so it’s quite a bit sadder than other Wes Anderson works.

a man holds the shoulders of a younger man, looking at him earnestly
Fine, I confess I currently cry at EVERYTHING.

Spoiler:  The last 10 minutes will probably crush your spirit.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I like that Wes isn’t afraid to go much darker and sadder with this than he usually does.  I lost track of the total number of murders, but there are AT LEAST 11.  Has there been even ONE murder in all other Wes Anderson films combined???  Seriously, please tell me because this film makes me forget about other Wes Anderson films.  It’s so beautiful and confident, and if the last 10 minutes don’t make you weep, your heart is made of stone.

Was Christa on the same page or do I have to write her out of my will? (Totally kidding, girl.  You still get the portrait of Bertha Mason.)  Read her review here to find out!

And don’t worry—if you’re getting tired of the high quality in films lately, we WILL return to absolutely shitty B-movies soon.  It’s getting to the point where I feel conflicted about still calling this a bad movie blog.  Bear with us for one more week.