June 17, 2020

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Review: High Amounts of Flavorful Style

“Don’t flirt with her.”
To those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with Wes Anderson’s filmmaking style, The Grand Budapest Hotel’s wacky vibe might throw you off. From the very beginning, you’re plummeted into a world that could only exist in the mind of a stylistic creative type, and it’s not exactly jarring…it just takes some getting used to.

The plot? Hard to explain. The production design? Difficult to do justice. There’s a lot held within the film’s surprisingly short 100-minute runtime, including a story-within-a-story-within-a-story set-up that on the surface seem purposeless and trivial, but actually contains immense depth (as Wes Anderson stories typically do). If you think about this film for a while, you might come to a conclusion that the story is about nostalgia and the significance of the past (hence the deeply layered storytelling), and the effects of the stylistic past on the present.
Yes, this is a hard movie to think about and analyze, and if that’s not your speed, this movie may not be for you. It’s something you can’t help but consider and ponder, because if you don’t, it won’t make too much sense. My mother dislikes this movie, and I think a major part of that was that she initially watched it on a plane — hardly the place for analytical thinking. That’s a major part of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and it itself is something worth thinking about — whether a work of art needs to be analyzed in order to be understood.

Deep analyses aside, the meat of the film is taken in full force by a subtly powerful Ralph Fiennes performance. Fiennes plays Monsieur Gustave H., the concierge of the hotel, a(n understandably) quirky character, yet one of great depth; Gustave’s relationship with new lobby boy Zero Moustafa (breakout star Tony Revolori) is put front and center, and it’s absolutely delightful to see the two act opposite each other; but are incredibly talented, and their performances are sharply nuanced. I’m tempted to rewatch the film if only for these two; they’re certainly the film’s standout.

Elsewhere in the cast are Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe and others, some hidden under makeup and mustaches. There are cameos aplenty, including a missable Tilda Swinton as an aged-up guest of the hotel. Some are funny, some serious; the cast is a mixed bag of emotions and tones, but the film is inarguably filled with fascinatingly droll performances, even for a Wes Anderson film.

If you try to understand The Grand Budapest Hotel on your first viewing, it may be difficult. It’s a complex caper film, anchored by the lead performances and its signature Wes Anderson style. The production design is immaculate, and the soundtrack is enormously fun. It’s the kind of movie that won’t satisfy everyone, but for the choice crowd that enjoys Anderson’s work and indie films in general, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a unique treat. [Grade: A-]

Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan
Rated: R for language, some sexual content and violence
Available: On Demand
Fun Fact: In addition to being one of the rare movies to have actual stories which are connected with the newspaper headline seen on screen, the newspapers shown near the start of this movie reveal much of the plot and ending.

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