Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Stefan Zweig (inspired by the works of), Wes Anderson
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law
Synopsis: The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
You had me at Wes Anderson.
Wes Anderson is at it again in The Grand Budapest Hotel with his unique, goofy visual style that may be his most intricate yet. As you can imagine, it will either draw you in or push you away very quickly. His aesthetic, while cartoony, is beautiful and seems to have an extra flair in Grand Budapest, which serves what he’s trying to do well. Anderson uses several different aspect ratios for the different time periods we are thrown into, which was an interesting touch and served the nostalgic feeling Anderson was going for. His camerawork, along with his crazy backdrops, was creative and very much what I would call “Wes Anderson”, meaning it’s a punchline in some cases. In some sequences, Anderson even goes from live-action to stop-motion and the way Anderson blends that is beyond brilliant. On top of that, the fun, energetic score Anderson curates from Desplat makes those scenes feel like some sort of high. I wouldn’t say this is Anderson’s best film, but The Grand Budapest Hotel is a magic blend that is visually enhanced and will surly be more than satisfying for those that like Anderson’s style.
The script for Grand Budapest isn’t all zany and goofy as the trailer made it out to be, as there are darker layers and themes explored here. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still very cartoony in all the best Anderson-glorified ways as possible. The story is framed as a story being told within a story. We start in modern day as a girl starts to read a book entitled, The Grand Budapest Hotel and then we flashback to 1985 where the author (Jude Law) of that book re-tells the story of how he came to write it. We then flashback again to 1968, where the author is much younger and is staying at a run-down Grand Budapest Hotel. He meets an older Mr. Moustafa, who sits down with the author to tell him how he came into possession of the hotel, which flashback’s us once again to 1932, where most of the story takes place. It’s there we meet Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the manager of this prestigious hotel, and his new lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori). Gustave is a magnetic character who is just as self-serving as he his guest-serving, taking advantage of all the rich, old woman that stay at his hotel. When one of them is mysteriously murdered, he’s blamed for it and thus the explosion that moves our story forward. While this script mostly works as a crime-dramedy, it’s also part heist film and character piece. Both those elements are prominent and at times are the driving force. However, most of the narrative surrounds Gustave having to prove his innocence with the help of Zero and how those two form an unlikely bond that is compelling and even genuine. The story deals with death, the tragedy of nostalgia and the effects that can have on people as well, all while mixed in with this stimulating comedic work. It may not be all happy-go-lucky, but there’s depth on several layers that is elegant in all the ways Anderson can bring.
Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori are brilliant. Their chemistry was quintessential and made for perfect comedic timing. From their goofy actions to their potent dialogue, these guys were definitely on their A-game is just about every faction. F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law had small roles but were great when they needed to be. Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe were polarizing in their roles, especially Dafoe. His chase of Jeff Goldblum was Hitchcock-esque and the mountain ski chase was a ton of fun, making for a perfect moment when that scene crystallized. Anderson threw in a bunch of small cameos, which was just about everyone he’s ever worked with before and they were all great. Simply, it was a ton of fun.
What can you say about Alexandre Desplat? The man is a genius, especially when working with Wes Anderson. His score here almost works as another character and is a crucial piece to Anderson’s extravagant style. The music is fun and has a lot of energy, even in the smaller parts of the film. The score is always moving, creating the sense of urgency this narrative has. It was absolutely gorgeous in every way and is a fun listen to outside of the film. Definitely one of Desplat’s best.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is hilarious on all accounts and filled with incredible performances that is sure to please all the Anderson fans out there. Some elements of the story didn’t blend perfectly, especially when the tone suddenly changed halfway through, but it’s also never distracting. As with all Anderson films, you either love his crazy style or not. For those that do, you’ll enjoy what this film has to offer.