Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Movie Review


A beautiful, funny story that is just as smart as it is nonsensical.
Wes Anderson’s latest film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” opens at the elaborate Grand Budapest Hotel with a storied history located in the fictional former empire Zubrowka in Eastern Europe. Young Zero Moustafa (newcomer Tony Revolori) is an aspiring lobby boy for the famed concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes). The elder takes Zero under his wing and the two begin a trek across mythical lands. 2014

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Screenplay by: Wes Anderson

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori

As with recent Anderson films, this shares his distinctive artistic sense. Like he’s telling a story through pictures. The story here is a quirky, idiosyncratic tale of mischievous and silly whimsicality. Random nonsense could also be a way to describe it. The plot, or a loose semblance of chapters of a related story, literally takes Mr. Gustave and Zero from satisfying old ladies, to art thieves, through a murder plot, to prison, a brief pause to fall in love, to escaped convicts and back to the noted Grand Budapest Hotel. It was quick and playful, also very far removed from any relatable sense of reality.

But the interesting thing about the film is that it does serve as an odd viewpoint to the real, war-torn world of late 1930s Europe. Personally, I found the juxtaposition between the frivolousness of the story and the dark, grandiose themes of life to be too startling and moves the film even closer to random nonsense. However, this is also where the film shows off its unique, incredibly intelligent and endlessly witty dialogue. It is really funny and fits both the quirky, playful nature of the story and the darker tones of the times. The dialogue at least allows you to laugh your way through the film even if you don’t form much interest in the story.

As mentioned before, Wes Anderson is telling a story through pictures. Each shot is framed meticulously and symmetrically. I like his “square” way of telling more ludicrous stories. There are also a number of shot set-ups which allow for some funny jokes as the camera pans over to complete the scene. The production design is also very beautiful and fits the grand and eloquent, but also lonely, hotel. The colour palette this time around shifts more than usual, but the story also goes through a lot of phases. The hotel itself is bathed in a dull pink and purple, which is a gorgeous visual imagery for the overcast pall of communism and the lavish and hopeful lifestyles of its residents and employees.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is based on the writings of early 20th century Austrian writer Stefan Zweig and it opens with a writer telling a story of an older Zero relaying the story of his life. Part of my issues with the film is that these characters don’t resemble humans. Zero’s motivations aren’t clear and are not understandable, and Mr. Gustave is just crazy. And then they embark on an adventure that is just as odd as they are. The dialogue is hilarious and astute, and the landscape it all unfolds on is beautiful and elegantly created. It’s a beloved film, but some will be unable to place themselves in that world.

Similar Titles:

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) - Young, yellow love finding happiness in the world of Wes Anderson.