Grand Budapest Hotel Review
Opens in Canada March 14
by Anne Brodie
Grand Budapest Hotel is fun like a ribald game of snakes and ladders as characters fortunes swell and disappear. I love Wes Anderson’s light touch and unique sense of style. Extreme sophistication and childlike wonder co-exist in beautiful, intriguing, delicious harmony, joys to watch and hear. Anderson’s writing is informed by things of great arcane weight, classical education, art and design through the ages, arts and letters of the past, reverence for his characters as thinkers and complete recognition of our unique individualism. Anderson dares to be an optimist, a radical attitude in this cynical era and he is optimistic with a vengeance, against all comers, against the Nazis, the thugs, the cheaters, betrayers and players. Anderson’s sunny outlook is incredibly infectious and builds up the viewer. I guess it’s inspiring.
At the center of the film is Lobby Boy Zero (Tony Revolori) and his protégée M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes at his zaniest) two employees of the hotel who navigate the sturm and drang of the era between the wars and the financial ups and downs of the place. Their adventures take them to far off places but they almost always return to the relative safety and consistency hotel.
The hotel and settings are crammed with fascinating characters played with relish by Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Adrian Brody, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Anderson’s regulars and worthy newcomers. None cleaves to the conventional Hollywood wisdom of character, appearance or behavior. They are freaks and individualists.
Anderson’s cameos are top notch, from friends and collaborators like Bob Balaban, Mathieu Amalric, Léa Seydoux and Waris Ahluwalia who may say a line or two, and then disappear. It’s a teasing, delightful game he plays, inviting us to recognize the faces he holds dear enough to throw into the film, even as outfield players. And the sheer volume of name actors in the film is stunning. The shock of recognition buoys things, as we watch the central characters and consequences play out. The cast meet Andersons’ script challenges by acting and moving in specific ways that uphold iconic fantasy elements. Do people really move and sit and look like his characters? No, they don’t. But in the Anderson fantasy world, much is conveyed about classicism, time and history through movement and bearing –
In fact, surprise is a strong element in the film, the surprise of suddenly being thrust inside a pink wedding cake of a hotel and meeting its distinctive inhabitants, the surprise in what they say and the twists and turns of life in their world. Nothing is ordinary in the Grand Budapest Hotel. A word about Wes Anderson’s perennially brilliant art direction and set design. I was drawn like many to the film originally not by the cast or by Anderson but by the poster showing the hotel in the rose gold colors of dawn. This monumental candy palace with its mysterious lights and romantic mountain environment surely holds secrets and wonders. And honestly, what other filmmakers go to the trouble Anderson does in inventing a visually seductive world where things are different? Inside the castle, as it moves through time there is pink everywhere, cream and yellows, gilt and crystal. The author reading us the story of the hotel sits in a crazy orange and yellow setting straight from the sixties. The palatial home of Madam D. (Tilda Swinton) is hyper Beidermeier / Bavarian classic hybrid and the prison/hospital and train well, they are eyefuls too. The story is fun like a game of snakes and ladders as characters fortunes swell and disappear. It’s a whodunit, a fantasy, a romance, and a costume piece. This is one film that can’t be explained in any real way. It must be experienced as the glorious sensual masterpiece that it is.
35mm fantasy Written by Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness, Directed by Wes Anderson Opens March 6 USA, March 14 Canada Runtime: 99 minutes MPAA: 14A Country: UK / Germany Language: English / French