The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a charming roller coaster ride featuring a fantastic Ralph Fiennes performance. The plot is fast and loose (undoubtedly planned meticulously by Anderson) and feels more like an excuse for Anderson to unleash his visual aesthetic onto the world. Characters take a back seat to fantastic set pieces and the film feels like Anderson is now comfortable and confident with his visual abilities.
The story centers around famed conceirge Gustave H. and his protege Zero Moustafa. Together, they conspire in theft, prison escape and several fist fights in the faux-European nation of Zubrowka. Their world is changing as pomp and circumstance are being replaced with violence in the pre-World War II world. There is a darkness to The Grand Budapest Hotel that was only glimpsed in prior Wes films. The murder, language and evil lurking around the corner combined with the slapstick make for an entirely new Anderson experience that is both welcome and worrying.
Fiennes does his best to steal the show but it is the production design and dolly shots that rule the day. The film features a fully realized world that no doubt has been broken down to minutiae. The credits, sets, accouterments, costumes and miniatures are all stellar. (read about some of the work here and here and here).
Wes Anderson is my favorite director and the reason for this is his blending of characters and unique story. Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Darjeeling Limited and Royal Tenenbaums introduced us to memorable characters who stand out amongst the tchokies. They are fully realized and fit perfectly within the alternate worlds that Wes created. My favorite character is Richie Tenenbaum. The conflicted tennis player who went down to one sock.
However, as good as the acting is in Grand Budapest I don’t think there will be any iconic characters. I’ll admit that I am a spoiled Anderson fan and I can’t expect great characters from every film. However, I hope Anderson doesn’t lose site of the small characters that he has made a career off of. His past two films Moonrise Kingdom and Budapest have all featured neat individuals who are all endearing. However, it is the moments you remember and the people feel like tools to achieve a visual aesthetic or charming moment.
I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel. It is movie making at its finest. However, I hope Wes doesn’t lose focus of his characters amongst the set design and set pieces. His characters are what make his films iconic. I can’t wait to see what he does next.