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The Grand Budapest Hotel Film Review
updated: Apr 05, 2014, 1:00 PM

By Rosie Sullivan

Written and Directed by Wes Anderson (Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig)

I finally went to see Wes Anderson’s newest flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring Ralph Fiennes and it was, in a word, delightful. The comedy-drama is a story within a story and tells the adventures of one Monsieur Gustave H., a concierge at a famous hotel, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy. A middle aged writer, known only as The Author, begins recounting in 1985 a time in his youth spent at the Grand Budapest Hotel, a remote mountainside hotel set in a fictional place called Zubrowka. The year was 1968 and the young author had the pleasure of dining with the hotel’s owner (an older Zero) who tells him of the days when the now forlorn and empty hotel was once famous and full of people.

The plot is only questionably important, in my opinion. In 1932, an elderly client of Gustave’s dies, leaves him a priceless Renaissance painting entitled “Boy With Apple”, her jealous obnoxious and powerful family accuses him of murder, he is imprisoned and subsequently he escapes. The plot serves as a structural frame from which Anderson is able to hang the various encounters, chases, and shenanigans he has created. In particular, I enjoyed the dynamic between the concierge and lobby boy.

While the film is full of fun, there is a twinge of soberness. It seems to offer a nostalgic longing for, well, nostalgia. The narrative is a story of how we feel about times long lost. The past is presented as being full of antiquated styles; the concierge, for example, is representative of a breed that has already, in the 1930s, died – of bourgeois travel and fine dining and service. There is also an old fashioned, vintage-y feel to the setting.

The whimsy and silliness soon falls away to murder and mayhem. There are sudden bursts of violence and mentions of tragic events. Such scenes also remind the audience that this time in history was a turbulent and brutal one – just before the onset of war. These point to something dark that is just outside the frame of the diegesis. That is to say that the negative undertones are there, but they are not overwhelming. There is a less liberal dose of melancholy than usual. Instead, the hilarity that ensues is much more in the foreground.

Wes Anderson’s films (past films include The Life Aquatic, Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited) have a distinctive visual and narrative style marked by quirky and eccentric yet flawed characters and colorful and detailed compositions. He rarely veers away from his auteur style. For instance, his films incorporate a recurring ensemble cast of actors – the cast of GB Hotel includes such names as Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and Owen Wilson. He also does not rely much on digital special effects. Action sequences tend to use an older style of stop-motion animation, painted backdrops, and miniature models. As all of Anderson’s films are, GB Hotel is greatly imaginative. It has elements of the caper film as well as screwball comedy.

I appreciate Anderson because he is a filmmaker who has been able to create movies that have an independent feel while still under the eyes of big studios. And he is able to achieve mainstream success without compromising his cinematic visions! He has his own unique brand of awkward, and often sad, comedy.

On a side note - the Paseo Nuevo theatre (the only one screening this film in the area) is very nice! I had never been there before and, although judging by the previews I won’t be going to see a movie anytime soon, enjoyed the comfy seats and small theatre.

If any Edhatters have gone to see this film, let me know your thoughts!


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