The Grand Budapest Hotel - Movie Review
Thank Goodness for Wes Anderson, whose loopy vision of the world is so colorful and joyous that he makes movie going fun again. Though the overall quality of his films has varied in my opinion; hits: Rushmore, The Royal Tennebaums and the superlative The Fantastic Mr. Fox; misses: The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou and Moonrise Kingdom- all of his films have the signature Anderson style and take place in an unique world. They are always interesting even if the plot occasionally becomes secondary to style, art direction and an almost fealty devotion to quirky characterization. However in The Grand Budapest Hotel he strikes gold. It is by far his best work. Here the zany plot, make-believe world, wildly original characters and story within the story blend gloriously to create a type of adult fairy tale that only Anderson could pull off.
Inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig and sharing a story credit with Hugo Guiness, Anderson’s script has literary roots and includes many literary techniques, including a prologue, chapter (part) title headings, voice-over narration and literary quotes and actual text on the screen. A story within a story within a story, this madcap tale involves a young writer befriending a mysterious hotel guest at a once glamorous grand hotel atop a mythic crag. It is 1968 and the guest, he learns is the real owner of the The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is no longer so grand. The elderly author is played by great character (and Oscar winner) F. Murray Abraham and the author is played by Jude Law (Oscar nominee). In flash forwards the author in 1985 is played by Tom Wilkinson (Oscar nominee.)
The question becomes how exactly did Zero-(F. Murray Abraham) become the owner of the hotel? You will be on the edge of your seat and deeply engrossed as this story unfolds, complete with filthy rich dowagers, gigolos, venal greedy relatives, a resourceful orphan lobby boy, a birth-marked, yet gorgeous pastry chef and at the center of it all, a dandified, yet in charge concierge played by Ralph Fiennes. This is one of his finest performances as he blends righteousness, lust, morality, athleticism with a touch of camp. This film is loaded with superb, perfectly stylized performances; its cast resembles a who’s who of Oscar winners and nominees including: Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray (a Wes Anderson staple), Saoirse Ronan and Edward Norton. Other major stars are in very minor roles and it becomes part of the fun to recognize an actor popping in and out of the film, in some disguise or deliciously designed costume. This game along with the story that has tremendous twists and turns makes watching The Grand Budapest Hotel enormous fun and almost interactive.
Vivid colors, outrageous sets and locations help create the aesthetic of Anderson’s glorious palette. Realism is tossed out the door at the very beginning and once you are in the world of the film, you will not question it. Irony, silliness, and a commitment to entertain never undermine the emotional impact and importance of friendship, a central theme in all of Anderson’s films. Loyalty, support and just old fashioned companionship are not to be sacrificed once you have a friend. Here allies are clearly drawn and in an increasingly world of dubious morality, commitment and accountability, that feels very nice indeed.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a visual feast that illustrates movies can tell a great story, have emotional resonance, have literary roots and be a blast to watch. I cannot wait to see it again. Bravo!
Saturday, December 20, 2014, Watertown, NY