Well, it’s no secret anymore that Wes Anderson is one of the most profound yet anticipated directors of modern day cinema. It’s taken awhile for people to become comfortable with his eccentric style, and perhaps even it’s taken awhile for Anderson to fall comfortably into a niche that he can embody as his own. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a classic example of this, as its upward gross of 46 million dollars has already made it one of the highest grossing Anderson movies, and is expected to take over Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom to become the number one grossing movie in Anderson’s filmography. Although film buffs all over have recognized the unique talent that lies in Anderson’s work since the Bottle Rocket days, it’s taken until just recently for the “common movie goer” to appreciate this talent. The Grand Budapest Hotel is indeed quite grand. It features an eccentric yet mannerly concierge as the focus of the story, many detailed dollhouse sets, every sort of color you can possibly imagine, and Anderson even chose to film the majority of the movie in 1.375:1 ratio instead of widescreen. It is no doubt very Wes Anderson-y, and as of yesterday with its wide release, people all over the country are flocking to cinemas to see it.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is the story of the hotel’s most beloved concierge, Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes). During the World War I era, the Grand Budapest is one of the most famous and finely tuned hotels in Europe. We are told of Gustave’s story through the eyes of the lobby boy of the hotel, Zero (Tony Revolori). When Gustave gets mixed up in the murder investigation of one of hotel’s most wealthy guests and also a beloved “friend” of Gustave’s, the two team up to prove Gustave’s innocence. It is a ridiculous yet highly entertaining story with a very broad spectrum of characters, yet is a story told with surprising coherence and grace.
If there was one word I had to use to describe Grand Budapest, it would be…exciting. It’s exciting to see all of Anderson’s weird nuances in all of their glory. It’s exciting to see almost every character on screen being played by an A-list actor. It’s exciting to totally immerse yourself in this fantastical world that Anderson has created, a world that feels almost nostalgic for a time period in which hotels were more. They were grand. The sets are truly like pieces of artwork. As per the usual with Anderson movies, they aren’t made to look realistic, but their charm makes them truly fun to look at and in a way they still keep you believing in this fantasy world. The unusual editing techniques and camera movements just add to this fantasy. There are some truly impressive things going on with the camera and every shot is truly unique yet still keeps you in the story. It may still be considered over-the-top for some people’s tastes, but man, does it work.
Ralph Fiennes is the obvious standout of the film, as he brilliantly portrays Gustave as very much odd but also very likable. I think the real downfall of the movie would be if Gustave ever became too eccentric, so much that he comes off as a caricature rather than a character. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen. Gustave is quite the character, but one that will have the audience laughing out loud and at the same time he conjures a sort of sympathy and love for this offbeat concierge. This kind of character is very much reminiscent of other beloved Wes Anderson characters such as Max from Rushmore, in which oddity is what makes them lovable. This was Tony Revolori’s first feature film and he doesn’t fail in matching up to the rest of the more experienced cast. As Gustave’s protégé, through Zero’s own admiration and astonishment of the man we are able to observe the pure wonderment that Gustave is so evoking of. The rest of the cast, although I won’t go through them all, are wonderful as well. Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, they all are great. Even the ones who only have a few scenes to really shine, such as Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, they all perfectly execute their performances.
This movie has all sorts of broad themes such as love and death, yet it’s hilarious. It’s probably the most comical Anderson film to date. It can be very dark at times, yet is also very upbeat and lighthearted. It’s hard to put this movie into a box, because it simply doesn’t belong in a box. Is it a comedy? Is it a who-dun-it flick? Is it a drama? It seems to have a little bit of everything in it and by some sort of absurd and magical collision, all of these elements work fantastically together. Grand Budapest is of a style and genre entirely of its own; one which takes imagination and fantasy and makes the ordinary extraordinary. If you’re an Anderson fan, you’ll probably love it. If you aren’t an Anderson fan and you’re hoping that Grand Budapest is the director’s attempt to be more obliging to average audiences, then you’ll probably be disappointed. Grand Budapest is full throttle what Anderson has always embodied in his films and he does not let up at all with this one. However, through all of its fantasy, Anderson still succeeds in telling a story that feels very much human. It’s this combination of imagination and humanity that makes Anderson pictures so talked about, either positively or negatively. With Grand Budapest, it seems to be more positive than negative. Whether this is because general audiences have finally gotten used to this unconventional style, or because Anderson has finally found a happy balance between folly and brilliance, no one can really answer. But then again, it doesn’t really matter.