The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014
Directed by Wes Anderson
I like to think that if I made films, they would be something like a Wes Anderson film. However, I am not an aspiring filmmaker, nor am I capable or talented enough to become one. However, Wes Anderson (or what I've seen from his most recent 3 films), are what I love about movies. The style, the humor, the visuals are exactly right up my alley. I just love it all! So I was a little anxious going into the Grand Budapest Hotel, hoping I would continue to love what I'm seeing from Anderson. And while this didn't surpass my love of Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr Fox, it was still a fantastic film, highly entertaining, extremely hilarious, and fabulous.
The film starts off with an extreme meta narrative. We first see a young girl opening a book, named The Grand Budapest Hotel. Next we hear (and see) the words being read, told by an elderly writer, who is telling the story of his younger self, visiting the named hotel. He happens to be staying there at the same time as Zero Moustafa, an elderly gentleman now, and the owner. They run into each other in the public bath's and the young writer enquires to Mr Moustafa his story of how he came upon the hotel. And we enter the final layer of the story. We are now seeing young Zero's story as he first arrives at the Grand Budapest hotel several decades earlier, as a new lobby boy, and tells of murder, stolen paintings, prison break, fancy chocolates, and first love.
I don't mean to short change the acting of any others within the film because Fiennes was so fantastic. While this film is advertised as a huge ensemble film, with many Anderson favourites, it's actually a film that had two main characters, with a small handful of meaningful support. Of course, we have Gustave and Zero. I have not read much about Tony Revolori (who plays Zero), he admittedly does not have nearly as showy a part, but is plays his part well, keeps expression to a minimal, unless needed. For supporting, our main character here is Agatha, played by Saorsie Ronan. Her part is not as showy either, but she is a fun addition to the cast and generally just gives great performances. We also have a very sinister Willem Dafoe as the assassin, Jopling, and Adrien Brody as Madame D.'s son. Both sinister, both great.
As well, the music in the film was fabulous. Desplat has long been a favourite composer of mine, and I feel some of his best work is done with Anderson. I have not seen an Anderson film that Desplat hasn't composed, but I feel that Desplat really adds something to the film, and the overall style and quirkiness. It's extremely distinctive, and it makes complete sense why Anderson keeps bringing him back on board. This, along with Ralph Fiennes, was one of my favourite parts of the film. Immersive and quirky, and completely fun.
The story itself felt a little complicated and convoluted (a problem not found in Moonrise or Mr Fox), but I typically find Anderson films need several viewings to completely appreciate, take in, and notice all the little details and quirks, and this is a film I plan to watch again as soon as I can. However, when the film wasn't convoluted, it was touching, charming, random and grand fun. Some of the best fun in the film was all the completely (on purpose, of course) implausible situations, and how everyone reacts. To the extended conversation between Gustave and Zero after they have succeeded in the prison break of Gustave, to the hilarious shoot-out in the hotel. What makes this movie so fun is it takes a story idea, which has been done many, many, many time before and makes it feel completely fresh and new. How many times have we seen films about people wrongly accused of murder and they try to track down their killer? But Anderson gives a quirky and irresistible spin on this story, making it hilarious, but still a heart-warming and, at times, touching.
As I've seen so far, we have the contrast between irresponsible adults, and responsible children. While Moonrise Kingdom had parents and grown-ups giving advice to the young lovers, they never followed it themselves, and, ironically, Sam and Suzy often handled situations better than the adults did. Mr Fox in Fantastic Mr Fox was classic irresponsible, and often dragging others into his schemes (and often the calm, responsible Kristofferson). Here, we have Gustave H, the head member of adults acting like children. We do not often see him actually doing any work, but often giving it to others. He is always off to flirt with some older woman, or just have a good time. This is not to say he shirks responsibility (he gives "sermons" during dinner, and does manage the entire hotel and is the reason it is so grand) But also remember, many guests come simply to see him. And while there are less children around this time, Zero and his fiancee Agatha, are definitely the level heads, and are the ones with the plans, the brains and the capabilities. Zero, who is loyal and devoted, is often the common sense. Not to mention, the fact that he draws on his little mustache, him and Agatha get "engaged", and Agatha has a full-time job shows the contrast of adults being children, and children being adults.
As well the film is nostalgic for, perhaps, a time that never existed. But it's never a flawless nostalgia, but is always tainted with the things that really did taint the past. Things like war, lack of modern technology, etc. But is reminiscent of simpler times, though always a world that never quite exists.
Overall, the film of a style level is marvelous. The humor, the style, the music, the acting is all pitch-perfect. The story was a little muddled at times, but never completely collapses, or even comes close. And while I'm reserving judgment for an overall placement until I've watched this film a time or two more (and until I've watched more Anderson films), but at this point Moonrise Kingdom is still ruling, and will be tough to beat. Admittedly, Wes Anderson films are not generally for everyone. They are so quirky and different from much other filmmaking going on that it is a little jarring at times. However, I do recommend the film.
Will it garner awards attention? I really hope so. This absolutely deserves recognition in Art Direction, Costumes, Make-up/Hair-styling, and Screenplay. But most of all, I'd love to see Ralph Fiennes recognized for his work here. He is the head of the film, and is so marvelous, as I've stated before. But even if nothing comes to fruition, this film is still lovely, and definitely worth seeing.