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The Grand Budapest Hotel
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THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL recounts 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. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune -- all against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent.
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To describe the plot would be both difficult and pointless. Wes Anderson is an acquired taste and fans are likely to love everything he releases. The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly has the same tongue-in-cheek tone of his previous films, and the similarities don't end there. Neil Young once said that his output was all one song, and Anderson's feels like all one film.
The story is beautifully framed, with an old man recollecting his past to an interested writer. The images are typical Anderson, with the usual explosion of colors and storybook settings. This feeling is heightened by the use of title cards to denote the chapters and the familiar style of music used in previous efforts. The story takes place in three different time periods, but we spend most of our time in 1932. All of the scenes from the past are shown in full screen, while the main narration sequences are in widescreen.
All I will say about the plot is that is focuses on hotel employees M. Gustave (Fiennes) and Zero Moustafa (Revolori). Gustave dates old women and one of them leaves him a valuable painting in her will. Her family are rather annoyed, and hire someone to retrieve the painting. The story is incredibly detailed and vast, despite only running for 100 minutes. There are frequent moments of witty humor, farce, irony and visual gags. Most of Anderson's regulars appear in the film at some point, and it's a tribute to him that such talents are willing to show up for such limited screen time.
Fiennes is very effective as Gustave. He's eloquent, and fond of reciting poetry, but his comic timing is perfect throughout. The vocabulary is not what you would expect from a typical movie, but it is offset with occasional expletives, which are extremely funny in the context of the film.
I was reassured by the large audience that showed up on a Saturday morning to watch a film by a director who does nothing to try to appeal to the masses. There is a shootout scene, but not like anything you have ever witnessed. Wes Anderson is like Stephen King or David Lynch in the way that he slightly skews reality; unlike those two, Anderson's stories are much lighter in tone. I despise cruelty to animals, but you'll laugh at a scene involving a cat. It's similar to Snoopy's fate in Moonrise Kingdom.
It's so refreshing to see a filmmaker with ideas. Aren't you tired of seeing Hollywood blockbusters that are predictable and tired? Grand Budapest will never let you relax because there is so much information to absorb. The dialogue is strange, the settings are like something out of a dream, numerous objects and props are weird in themselves. It took me a few moments to come back to reality after the movie because I was still in that world as I walked out of the theater. I didn't even hear someone call my name until their third try.
I imagine The Grand Budapest Hotel will reveal new things every time you watch it, and I can't wait to add it to my collection and see it again. This may be Anderson's most accessible film to date, but he definitely hasn't deviated from his unique style.
For me director/writer Wes Anderson has been an acquired taste. Certainly the animated "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009) and "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012) have become personal favorites. This film has joined the list of brilliant filmmaking. Part 1930's Keystone Cops, part romance, part mystery, part thriller and part about anything else, Anderson has created a world he clearly enjoys but may be a bit strange to the rest of us. Using fictitious settings, characters and evil empires he tosses in terra cotta and other pastels to brighten an otherwise place of increasing darkness in the world.
The time is the 1930's (with flashbacks and flash-forwards) and the setting is a country high in the mountains of Eastern Europe. M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes)is the concierge at the upscale titled hotel. For all practical purposes, he runs the place. His services are readily available especially to the elderly widows that seek him out. He is always accommodating and fairly suggests gender is not an issue. One of his favorite clients is the rich and powerful Madame D. (an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton) who at 84 "isn't the oldest he's...uh serviced" he announces. Under his tutelage is "lobby boy" Zero (Tony Revolori). When interviewed for the job, Gustave asks, "Why do you want to be a lobby boy?" "Who wouldn't" Zero responds.
Zero is played in later life by F. Murray Abraham who is telling the story to a young writer played by Jude Law. When Madame D. dies, a valuable painting is left to Gustave much to the chagrin of her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and her 3 ugly daughters. When Gustave, who along with Zero have gone to the funeral, realizes Dmitri isn't going to let him leave the castle with the painting, he decides to just take it, which leads them off into the wintery slopes.
Anderson fills up the story with an assortment of regulars including Jeff Goldblum as Madame D.'s executor, Harvey Keitel as a prison inmate, Edward Norton as a military police detective, Saoirse Ronan as Zero's girlfriend complete with a large raspberry birthmark on her cheek, "shaped like Mexico" as well as Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Bob Balaban as fellow concierges. What is so wonderful about this movie is the silliness of course, but also a nostalgic look back at a bygone era before storm troopers and Ruskies took over that part of the world. Anderson and his wonderful set designers came up with an unusual but satisfying look at the period. Often using miniatures, it just looks great. The film revolves around Fiennes great performance as Gustave. He spits out the words placed there by Anderson with a sense of confidence, breeding and intellect. And he's funny as hell. Highly recommended.