The Grand Budapest Hotel is the culmination of every technique and signature style that director Wes Anderson has ever used. There are elements of everything including Fantastic Mr. Fox which is shown towards the end of the film with a chase down a mountain between Willem Dafoe’s character and Ralph Fiennes. Just before this though we see the classic looking over the lead character’s shoulder that has appeared in several Anderson film’s like The Royal Tenenbaums. I’m pointing this out first because it’s easy to write this film off as just another Wes Anderson film when it’s the furthest thing from it. It’s not that it’s unrecognizable, but Anderson has grown leaps and bounds from where he was when he directed Moonlight Kingdom. The story’s opening is actually full of deep meaning, but I’m sure most people were probably just confused or annoyed by the four scene opening. The film starts off with a young girl heading into a cemetery and placing a key on a statue labelled “The Writer.” The significance of the key is never explained, but as the girl sits down to read a book the film cuts to “The Writer” who is an older gentleman. He’s breaking the fourth wall as he records something, but is quickly interrupted by his child shooting a toy gun at him. He pushes through as he tells us a story that was told to him. At this point the story cuts to a third opening and we find the writer younger and played by Jude Law.
The writer is now staying at the Grand Budapest Hotel circa 1968. The hotel is not grand looking. What you see on the cover is not this hotel. It is the same make and size, but it lacks the color and luxury of what we see there. Here Law’s character meets the owner of the hotel Mr. Zero Moustafa. Moustafa played by F. Murrary Abraham is an older gentleman who is quite famous. Law’s character ends up having an encounter with him in the bathhouse and Moustafa invites him to dinner to tell him his story.
In our fourth opening we go to the truly grand, Grand Budapest Hotel. Here were’ introduced to the hotel concierge M. Gustave played by Ralph Fiennes. After his eccentric opening in which it becomes clear that he’s slept with a very elderly rich woman, played by Tilda Swinton, we’re introduced to young Zero played by Tony Revolori.
To recap we meet a young girl and cut to an old man; from there we meet his younger counter part who meets the older counterpart to the younger main character. That’s not just clever by the way; it’s actually establishing the history of the story. It’s establishing that this story has been passed down from generations through the novel, but even before that it traveled many years between from the people who lived the adventure. It’s a complex opening and I’m sure some people will watch it and think that Anderson is being clever and nothing more when in actuality he’s taking the viewer on a journey through time. Whether they suspect that its happening is on them, but he’s taking you there either way.
This story is really impossible to sum up in a way that does it justice. Part of it is about the war; part of it is about legacy, class, love, friendship and a sense of belonging. It has drama, comedy, dark comedy and an overall presence of humanity to it both good and bad.
Fiennes’ Gustave finds a kinship in Revolori’s Zero because they come from the same cut. Gustave started as a lobby boy the same way Zero did and neither one of them have a family. In the end and as it is in much of the film, they have each other.
What is significantly different about the story for this film compared to Anderson’s previous tales is the lack of a majestic ending. If you’ve seen a previous Anderson film then you know what I’m referring to, it’s that tremendous feeling that you’re left with after the film. It’s almost melancholy, but there’s enough laughter and joy that you just feel good. That’s not the case here. You don’t leave feeling sad per say, but Anderson’s goal is not to give you the majestic ending that several of his films are known for. All of the characters do not come together to do a long walking march and show that they grew and learned together after going through hell and came out stronger in the end. Instead the ending is based in reality, but one that most people should be able to relate to.
The visuals of course are beautiful and full of Anderson’s style. If there are any other visionaries making films today than they’re hiding their presences because Anderson is standing alone. His attention to detail is incredible and you can see that in just the opening as he cuts from four different eras none of them look anywhere near the other. He is a master at his craft and frankly no other filmmakers are near his level.
For the home release there are plenty of special features and ones that you’ll actually want to watch, but then this is another area in which Anderson always delivers.
If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson then you have already seen this movie, but if you’re not, if you haven’t checked his films out because they’re too different from the Hollywood machine then you’re missing out. The Grand Budapest Hotel in particular is the most accessible film that Anderson has made. It’s also his best and as some would say the most “Wes Andersony” of them all. How it manages to be all three things at once, accessible and yet unfamiliar while still being incredible… well that’s just Anderson’s style I guess.
Director: Wes Anderson Writers: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness, inspired by Stefan Zweig Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Indian Paintbrush Run Time: 100 Min Release Date: 6/17/14