D: Wes Anderson. W: Wes Anderson (inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig). DP: Robert D. Yeoman. Starring: Ralph Fiennes/Tony Revolori/Saoirse Ronan/Tom Wilkinson/Tilda Swinton/Jeff Goldblum/Jude Law/Adrien Brody/Willem Dafoe/Edward Norton/Bill Murray/Lea Seydoux/Jason Schwartzman/Harvey Keitel/F. Murray Abraham/Mathieu Amalric.
Another addition to the Wes Anderson canon has reached screens and his work continues to live up to its stylish expectations. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a visually lush pleasure, with as much delight and witticisms to match its look.
The film is structured around an author dispensing to the audience how he came to write a book on the Grand Budapest Hotel. Thus shifting the story back about twenty years to his stay at the same hotel and moving meeting with its current owner. The story then shifts again to this owner telling his own story of his experiences in the hotel. All three time periods, delineated by different aspect ratios, evoke different places in history, but all embrace Anderson’s sense of nostalgia. Like previous films, Anderson uses storyboard cards to cut his film into chapters, like a grand old illustrated book read by lamp light by a loved one.
The majority of The Grand Budapest Hotel follows the new lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) and his relationship with the eccentric and esoteric concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Fiennes is marvelous here, with his long fingers and impeccable brow, he somehow radiates sexual androgyny. As his character shares, “I go to bed with all my friends,” and we believe him. Fienne’s Gustave is all meticulous flare and romance, one that leads him and his lobby boy on an elaborate enjoyable caper.
The smaller bit parts of the film work well as the major storyline remains with Fiennes and Revolori. Their relationship and repertoire are a strong base for the more ridiculous moments. Revolori matches Fiennes’ sinewy quietness, slowly amalgamating the older man’s characteristics as his own. In a charming bit Revolori and his love Agatha (Saoirse Ronan with her real accent) recite their one poetry, like Fiennes’ Gustave. Making verbal magic out of lived moments. The film is full to the brim with Anderson’s usual crackpot of actors, which instead of feeling stale somehow remains fresh and even induced pure cameo chuckles from my theater. My only gripe is there is a bit too much voice-over in the beginning, anyone surprised?
Anderson fully embraces his Roald Dahl like mise en scéne. Shot entirely in Germany and Poland, the European set breathes necessary life into a story so rooted in its time and place historically. With this, his eighth feature film, Anderson’s style has become so singularly recognizable it even spawned a Saturday Night Life parody last year. Oftentimes such a stylized or unique visual aesthetic can either enthrall you or alienate you. This love/hate response I don’t find with Anderson’s films. Even when the story doesn’t interest me I somehow get charmed (to a degree) in the end. My favorites are 1998’s Rushmore and 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, with the this new film joining them.