Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel may be his grandest work yet. It spans four different time periods, each with their own color pallets and aspect ratios. Yet, all these periods, points of view and fields of vision gel into one beautiful, energetic and whimsical story.
We are first introduced to what I believe is the present tense, where someone ventures to a snowy cemetery to read The Grand Budapest Hotel. Then, the 1980s is where the author discusses why he wrote the book. Then, the 1960s is where the author (played here by Jude Law) stays in the hotel (in an updated, less grand style), meets the owner and hears his story. Then, 1933 is where the actual story takes place, with the hotel and the cast in their prime.
In 1933, Zero (Tony Revolori) becomes employed as a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest Hotel. The meticulous concierge, M. Gustav (Ralph Fiennes) takes Zero under his wing and the boy becomes Gustave’s right hand man. Upon the sudden death of Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), Gustav’s lover (one of many old, vain, rich, blonde women), and with the country on the verge of war, they set out for her funeral and will reading to learn, to her children’s dismay, that she left Gustav a piece of art. Soon, Gustav is suspected of murder. He, with Zero’s help, must set things straight, even as The Grand Budapest Hotel becomes the center of the action.
I believe this is Anderson’s most beautiful film yet, and completely deserving of its nomination for best cinematography. So many of the scenes are filled edge to edge with rich details. Every shot is laid out like its own standing work of art. I always admire how Anderson focuses on the use of symmetry and here, with such colorful costumes and details to each scene, it becomes a work of art like never seen before.
While the film is lovely to look at, it is also very funny in its own quirky way. Many of the film’s funniest moments are a bit odd, sudden and things that you feel a bit bad laughing at. Like the hilarious picture of Madame D.’s body found dead printed on the front page of the newspaper. Or when Willem Dafoe’s character tosses a cat out the window, or the unfortunate injury he gives Jeff Goldblum’s character. These moments which could have a tearful tone in another story, are weirdly hilarious here.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is nominated for a whopping nine Oscars. Wes Anderson is up for his first Academy Award as best director. The other nominations include Best Picture, cinematography, original screenplay, film editing, costume design, hair and makeup styling, production design and original score. Why Ralph Fiennes was overlooked for best actor baffles me, as his performance seems to move and lead the film. Until I become an Academy voter, I can only complain.
While I loved this film, I realize that The Grand Budapest Hotel may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a bit odd, quirky and very fast paced for such a vast film. However, in the right frame of mind, it is fun, funny and smart. And for anyone with eyes, I believe this is one of the most beautiful and well shot films this year.
“You’re the first of the official death squads to whom we’ve been formally introduced. How do you do?”
I enjoyed many things about this film, most especially Ralph Fiennes’ performance, but the whole thing didn’t really grab me. Less than the sum of its parts, I suppose. I am crazy about Moonrise Kingdom, which I have watched many times, and I think this was a letdown in some ways. Expectations can be a problem, obviously.
I wrote about the picture here:
Anthony, I believe Moonrise Kingdom may have been a wonderful fluke in Anderson’s career. Many of his movies (including TGBH) leave me emotionally detached, but not Moonrise Kingdom. But even though I’m not emotionally torn when things go wrong for Zero or Gustav, I enjoy the film in other ways. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the film.
Part of it for me with Moonrise Kingdom, in addition to how terrific the two leads are (and everybody else, of course) is that I was pretty much that age at that time in a very similar place, and, despite the fact that Anderson wasn’t even born yet in 1965, and the fact that the film is not “realistic” in any conventional sense, he absolutely nails so much about that time and place and age.
This is such a great movie! I’m glad Anderson finally gets a chance to shine at the Oscars, hopefully the film doesn’t walk away empty handed. I agree with you on Ralph Fiennes being snubbed, other than Jake Gyllenhaal he’s the most starling omission in that category I think.
It always surprises me how dark Anderson can get at times. I mean, when I think of Wes Anderson, I think of these adorable quirky characters, stop motion and models, and bright happy colors, but I always forget that animals always seem to die and how much profanity the movies have. It’s weird to see the darkness creeping in. I think I still like Moonrise Kingdom a little bit better than this one, regardless I had a lot of fun with this movie.
I like how you address the strange darkness in Anderson’s films. Yet, it never seems too out of place among the bright colors and cute little models. Hopefully TGBH won’t leave Oscar night empty handed.