(2014 - Director: Wes Anderson Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori)
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a feast of filmmaking delight. Director Wes Anderson really outdoes himself with this one; going above and beyond almost everything he’s done before. The multilayered film is so entrenched with wit, visual splendor, detail, and charisma that it will require multiple viewings.
It moves fast. Lighting fast. Right from the beginning we get four different time periods, three flashbacks, three different aspect ratios, and two different narrators. Once we land on the meat of the story, the story of M. Gustave, the cunning concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, and Zero, his new lobby boy, the words fly off the screen with grace and force. We’re introduced to a completely fictional country in Eastern Europe on the eve of a fictional war, which I assume is WWI and WWII mashed together.
Budapest is a plot heavy caper farce chalk-full of running gags, visual motifs, and extravagant locations. In an Anderson film, every shot matters and that means each shot demands its own look, detail and meaning. He’s not a director to shoot simple coverage for the sake of speediness. Budapest is a work of love and art from one of the most visionary, original directors working today. In most Anderson films there are moments of calmness and reflection. Not in Budapest. It’s go, go, go all the time. Famous Wes Anderson slow-motion shots? Not in this film. It’s probably best compared to Fantastic Mr. Fox in terms of story, but Budapest stands alone. We get a fantastic hotel sequence, chase scenes, a wildly entertaining phone tag sequence, a prison escape, shootouts, and an unusual amount of gore. In fact, it may be the most “R” rated Wes Anderson film when you add the gore and language together. I don’t know why, but that took me by surprise after his very kid-friendly Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox.
But don’t forget that Anderson is clearly an actor’s director. Why do you think so many famous actors are cast in this film? First and foremost he writes characters, even supporting ones, with roundness and depth. M. Gustave is responsible for most of the film’s tone and Ralph Fiennes does an exceptional job.
Because this movie was more plot heavy and needed an outlandish number of supporting characters, I did feel a slight disconnect with our two leads. Not to say there wasn’t plenty of character development, (there was) but M. Gustave is a man out of time. His grace and mannerisms are characteristics hard for a modern audience (or at least, me) to fully appreciate. The script is a wonder in terms of balancing both fancy and poignancy. There aren’t moments such as Richie Tenenbaum’s suicide attempt or the funeral scene in The Darjeeling Limited, but there is plenty of darkness to go around. There’s plenty of silliness, but it’s always grounded in reality.
We’re left with a lot of unknowns. I think that comes back to the hotel sequence and the message about there being a lot of events and information that’s not fit for a worker like a lobby boy. And that’s why this story belongs to Zero and the personality type it takes to work in an illustrious hotel during its golden age. He’s the silent hero. Even though M. Gustave has an air of childishness and vulgarity about him, he represents loyalty, nobility and friendship to Zero. It's ultimately because of him that The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the most pleasing movies I’ve seen in a very long time.