THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Movie Review
Wes Anderson is a very distinct builder of unique worlds and even his detractors could never accuse him of lacking an original vision. The days of auteurism in film are fading away as the commercial subject matter that keeps movie theaters in business take top priority over an artist’s personal approach to storytelling. Anderson’s ambitions have been growing larger, much like his casts but even though The Grand Budapest Hotel has the largest landscape and could inadvertantly be his most accessible story to date, there is no denying that his artistic DNA is woven thoroughly through every frame. What I find most admirable about his approach is how unapologetic it is in every way. Anderson doesn’t compromise the way he does things and basically says take it or leave it, doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference to him.
Filmed in three different aspect ratios, 1.33, 1.85, and 2.35:1, for each timeline, Anderson was inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig for a story that weaves it’s narrative between the late 1960s, the early 1930s and the present. A young writer played by Jude Law meets with an older Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) over dinner in the hotel and Zero tells him the rich history behind the Grand Budapest legacy and how it had ended up in it’s current state. Flashing back to 1932 we learn how a young Zero (Tony Revolori) met Grand Budapest’s devoted concierge, Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Courting the 84 year old dowager named Madame D (Tilda Swinton),and without giving things away, I’ll just say Gustave finds himself in quite the predicament.
The characters we meet throughout the story are the cream of the crop in acting talent from Anderson familiars to some that are new onboard. What Anderson accomplishes with this enormous talented cast that George Clooney failed to do with The Monuments Men is evident in how every character big or small has distinct personalities and motivations, every one of them feel like they have their own crazy story to tell. Harvey Keitel playing Ludwig, a prisoner that apparently had the same tattoo artist as Max Cady in Cape Fear, the hilariously creepy Willem Dafoe as a cold-blooded assassin with fangs, Jeff Goldblum as Deputy Kovacs, Adrien Brody as Dmitri, the trash-talking heel and brutal mastermind, etc., etc.
Wes Anderson is maintaining his own sensibilities and diving into exciting territory at the same time. The violence that Anderson dishes out in this film would make Quentin Tarantino give his seal of approval. There’s even old-fashioned homages to masters like Hitchcock that we see in a thrilling chase scene involving Goldblum’s character and “Boy With The Apple” is clearly a Hitchcock-like Macguffin.
Ralph Fiennes comedic performance is briliant and is a welcome return to the the kind of performance he brought to In Bruges. Wes Anderson doesn’t necessarily focus on the emotional consequences of his character’s fates or the romantic subplot involving Saoirse Ronan‘s character but I’m sure he would if that was the story he wanted to tell. The recipe to comedy is rhythm and Anderson understands that all too well, if Budapest slowed down on the tracks for one second, the entire massive train would derail.