I’ve obviously heard of Wes Anderson, being a filmy sort of person. I’ve had people tell me how amazing he is over and over but I’ve never acted on this information. I watched Moonrise Kingdom (2012) about a year ago, and I liked it. I liked the style, but it didn’t prompt me to work through Anderson’s back catalogue. Turns out, I just started with the wrong film.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in The Republic of Zubrowka (a fictional place and, none of this is actually set in Budapest) during the 1930s. The plot revolves around a flashback scenario where the current owner, in the 1960s, tells an author how he acquired the Hotel. He also harks back to his time as a lobby boy and this is where the main bulk of the narrative takes place.
Trouble ensues. All kinds of trouble. A murdered elderly woman who had a sexual relationship with the Hotel’s Concierge, Gustav H., is the main cause for all of the film’s mishaps. It is also wartime in the Republic of Zubrowka, and with the threat of communism ever looming, this causes problems for the immigrant lobby boy wanting to leave the borders. Trouble aplenty.
I love the style of the film; Anderson’s obviously found a DOP that he works very well with. I haven’t checked, but I can imagine they’ve probably collaborated on Anderson’s previous projects. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t the case as I’ve heard finding a good DOP for a director is like finding a good hairdresser for the average fussy person. It’s so refreshing to see big name actors respecting what Anderson is doing and becoming one of those directors they must work with. Obviously, all auteurs have their style: Almodovar, Tarantino, Hitchcock. They all have a signature style, and Anderson’s totally works for him.
As well as being a “serious” film (any film that isn’t a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston or an action film with Gerard Butler in it) it is also a lot of fun. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is extremely refreshing. It does what it likes, it doesn’t conform, this is the hipster friend of the indie film.
Sure, it has its problems. After a strong start introducing the hotel and the principle characters, it does go a little downhill. I got a bit lost in sub plot and extended sequences, and frankly in a film that looks like everyone is living in a rainbow, it does get a little dull. But, only a little. I’ve been known to nod off in about 9/10 films that I see but it doesn’t take the loudest and brashest of films to keep me awake. Midnight in Paris (2010) managed it and Blue Jasmine (2013) managed it but sadly this one didn’t. There was just something about it which didn’t keep the pace up. Maybe it got lost in the fluff and there wasn’t enough substance.
I’m being picky. Unless you consider Anderson’s work to be kitschy or pretentious, then of course this film isn’t for you. But for me, it’s an absolute treat, and probably his best film since 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums. You don’t want to miss seeing this one on the big screen.
So, to sum up: It looks like the Witch’s house in Hansel and Gretl and makes no bones about what it is: Wildly eclectic and a whole lot of fun.
Other Anderson films you may enjoy: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Have you watched The Grand Budapest Hotel? Is it your proverbial cup of tea?
If you’re a fan of film reviews, you might want to read about why Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003) is the best in the series, and my close scene analysis of Lost in Translation.