THE GRAND BUDAPEST
2014, R, 99 mins.
2014, R, 99 mins.
Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave / F. Murray Abraham as Mr. Moustafa / Tony Revolori as Zero / Mathieu Amalric as Serge / Adrien Brody as Dmitri / Saoirse Ronan as Agatha / Willem Dafoe as Jopling / Edward Norton as Henckels / Léa Seydoux as Clotilde / Jeff Goldblum as Kovacs / Jason Schwartzman as M. Jean / Jude Law as Young Writer / Tilda Swinton as Madame D. / Harvey Keitel as Ludwig / Tom Wilkinson as Author / Bill Murray as M. Ivan / Owen Wilson as M. Chuck
Written and directed by Wes Anderson
Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a wondrous feast for the senses
and a startling vivid piece of imaginative filmmaking.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it, not even perhaps in
Anderson’s own eclectically stylish film resume, which usually
highlights his penchant for exaggerated and quirky characters, colorfully
surreal environments, and stories that masterfully blend hearty laughs
with dark pathos. There have
been some that have found Anderson’s style to be stifling and impersonal
over the years, and I certainly have required time and patience to adjust
to it. Yet,
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a work that wholly enraptures you with its
artifice within a few short minutes and never lets go.
film has the look and feel of an ethereally beautiful storybook come to
life; a sense of normal reality here would have stymied the intended
effect. That, and it’s also
one of the director’s funniest and most opulent films to date, who
matches the film’s eye-popping visual splendor with a host of
endearingly oddball personas that give the film a sly, mischievous wit
that we’ve come to expect from his films.
The characters all live in harmony within the Anderson's dreamlike
world in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, which displays - in shot after shot
throughout its running time - a meticulous level of precision and craft. Like his previous films, Anderson is really obsessed with
lovingly engineering every fine detail of his unique film worlds, right
down to the makeup, hair, costumes, and production design. His overall filmmaking self-assurance and exuberance for the
material can be felt all throughout THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, which helps
elevate it beyond being a purely idiosyncratic work.
its sumptuous level of exquisite artistry, Anderson’s screenplay here is
an equally ambitious and painstakingly constructed affair.
It opens with an unnamed woman approaching a stature in a cemetery,
after which time she begins to read a book written by the man buried in
front of her. We then nimbly
segue to the 1980’s as the author of that very book (Tom
Wilkinson) discusses the contents of it and how one story in particular
has a personal significance to his past.
From here, the film whisks back in time a few decades and we see
the same writer (now played by Jude Law) making his way to the Grand
Budapest Hotel in the non-reality-based European country of Zubrowka.
The hotel itself barely resembles its past glory days.
The author meets the hotel’s enigmatic owner Mr. Mustafa (F.
Murray Abraham) over dinner, during which time Mustafa tells another
story within in the story of his time in the 1930’s when he was a lobby
boy for the hotel.
here, the film flashes back yet again, this time to WWII-era
Zubrowka, where we see the hotel as a shimmering beacon by which all other
hotels are judged in comparison to; the Grand Budapest is simply a
treasure of the European resort scene and the go-to destination for the affluent.
It’s headed up by hotel concierge Gustave (a jolly and fancy-free
Ralph Fiennes) and his apprentice, lobby boy Zero Mustafa (Tony
Revolori). Zero is a poor
orphan-immigrant looking for just about anyone to latch on to in life,
whereas Gustave – despite his outward refinement as a consummate
gentleman – is a hustler at heart.
Actually, he’s a triple threat in terms of being a gigolo,
adulterer, and con man that often sleeps with his guests – the older the
better – for simply the pleasure derived in doing so.
grow dicey for Gustave when one of the hotel’s most esteemed guests dies
under rather suspicious circumstances.
The woman, as part of her estate, leaves Gustave a rather priceless
painting, which really upsets her heirs, especially her son, Dmitri (a deliciously
foul tempered Adrien Brody). Eventually,
Gustave finds himself framed for the woman’s death and is promptly
thrown into a military prison, all while Dmitri and one of his savage
goons, Jopling (Willem Dafoe) searches for a supposed second will that
could discredit the first. All
of this, of course, comes to Gustave’s attention, making his need to
make a prison break with some newfound friends all the more important.
As previously mentioned, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is as visually luscious as any film I’ve recently seen. Anderson has opted to shoot the film using multiple aspects ratios, which proves to be a simple, but resourcefully economic manner of delineating the various time periods upon time periods in the story. The trademark Anderson-ian visual flourishes are all here in abundance – precisely centered compositions, elaborately dolly pans and zooms, and finely crafted editing – in conjunction with the film’s vividly ornate and richly textured set design to evoke a world that’s both familiar and fantastical at the same time.
layer cakes are a constant visual motif in the film, so it only stands to
reason that the Grand Budapest Hotel itself feels like a building
constructed of multiple layers inside and out.
To heighten the film’s sense of antiquated veracity, Anderson
makes use of wonderful models and hand tinted matte paintings and
backdrops, giving the whole film an old-fashioned sense of artificiality.
Computer generated fakery would have been a mistake, as Anderson is
consciously trying to evoke a brand of movie magic that’s simply not
used in abundance these days, which allows for THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL to
look and feel unlike anything playing in a cinema right now.
The film's look is simply a joy to behold and drink in; Anderson
has never made a more lush and immersive cinematic world of such pleasurable
immediacy as he has here.
Anderson doesn’t lose sight of his actors, and there are certainly
alumni from his past films making appearances here (like Bill Murray,
Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, for example). THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is owned throughout by Ralph
Fiennes, who has the tricky task of relaying a man with a playful, rapid
fire drollness that happens to be dapper and dignified, but is not
against slipping into bouts of anger-filled, F-bomb riddled profanity when
under duress. He finds a good
on-screen partner and straight man in Tony Revolori’s Zero, who merrily
joins his boss on whatever wacky and zany adventure that comes their way.
Outside of the enjoyment of basking in the film’s visual
pageantry, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is always engaging because of the
manner that Fiennes so fully submerges himself within his thanklessly
film crackles with handfuls of hilarious moments, my personal favorite
being an extended sequence involving Gustave and his fellow prisoners
staging a daring and elaborate escape that has fun in both honoring and
sending up the clichés and conventions of genre films like THE GREAT
ESCAPE and STALAG 17. What’s
really compelling, though, beyond the film’s lively capriciousness is
how it also manages to embrace the inherent darkness of its war-era period
and the ultimate sadness and tragedy of Zero’s recount of his times with
Gustave. As the layers of the story begin to unfold and the more we
learn of Gustave and Zero’s increasingly close working relationship and
budding friendship, we begin to grow somewhat apprehensive by the fact
that the shadow of the larger conflict around them will eventually rear
its ugly head. Superficially,
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL may come off as a love ballad about the wonder
years of hotel hospitality that merrily mixes history and fiction, but
deep down it has more sobering and thoughtful things to say about trust
make no mistake about it, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is astoundingly droll
throughout. More than ever,
it also displays Wes Anderson at the absolute zenith of his directorial
prowess. The film is as
affectionately and scrupulously designed and executed as any you’re
likely to experience this year. I
may have found Anderson’s approach a tad difficult to latch on to and
appreciate early on in his career, but now…well…I find it
progressively more difficult to not become lost in it all.
He's got me hooked.