One of the most enjoyable movie experience of the year! “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has something for everyone. From highbrow quirky humor to brutal murders; from mystery to romance. Surface level, you have a classically written whimsical caper, in the vein of “Clue;” but beneath the surface lies excitement and adventure! The story is about hotel concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) who teams up with his newly hired lobby boy Zero Moustafaone (Tony Revolori) to prove his innocence after he is framed for the murder of one of his wealthiest regular guests.
His eighth feature, this latest Wes Anderson film will delight nearly anyone who chooses to darken the doors of the theatre auditorium. Yes, even those who are inclined to grumble at his whimsical cinematic style, both in terms of dialog and cinematography. The movie has a way of charming even the most incorrigible creatures–probably that date you brought. Throughout the movie, there are many situations in the plot that are so ingenious that you will likely roll you eyes at the conceit and lavish imagination that has been woven so intricately into every nook and cranny. However, you will chuckle to yourself, if not laugh out loud a few times. Probably one of the funniest, and uniquely Wes Anderson, moments in the movie is when the prison inmates are using tiny tools smuggled in by way of decadent pastries to tunnel out of the Alcatraz style prison in the Alps.
Probably the most striking element of the movie is the distinct visuals that only a Wes Anderson movie can provide. The art direction and cinematography are two of the elements that stand out the most. His cinematographic style of storytelling is very consistent, filled with very tight shots with plenty of interesting angles. Many shots, he chooses to use, are densely packed with characters and set dressing; and at times, the camera appears to glide along with the characters. Most of the shots in the movie are very static. Ordinarily, this can create a staleness or boredom in a film; but, now with this one. He carefully crafts each shot to give you so much to look at that you forget the shots are not tracking or moving as they do in many films. Interestingly enough, the 4:3 ratio was the primary format used to tell the bulk of the story. I cannot remember another movie that chose to do the same thing for artistic reasons. There are also more classic elements of cinema magic, such as: stop-motion, matte paintings, and rear projection. It’s a brilliant amalgamation of old and new-style cinema to create a unique movie experience for the audience.
Ordinarily, I do not care for a movie where two people sit around, while one of them tells the story that is essentially the movie. And, this one takes that cliche to a whole new level. We start out by witnessing a little girl reading a book that comes to life. We encounter the author of the book who then proceeds to tell the story to his son. Wait, the layers aren’t over yet. Can anyone say “Inception”? Two characters in the story, that is being told by the author, who’s book is being read by the little girl, begin to tell yet another story–the story of the movie you are watching. Did you get all that? I’m not even sure if I did. However, like Jon Avnet, director of “Fried Green Tomatoes,” Wes Anderson is able to create an interested listener in the character who becomes the author of the story of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Very few director/writers have been able to accomplish the whole story being told within a story, without it turning out sub par. Under most cirumstances, there is no reason to have two people telling the story which is essentially the entire movie–just tell the main story and be done with it. The dialog is smart and sensible, and each line moves the plot along. Unlike the setting of the movie, the dialog is oddly contemporary–even American. There is no time wasted in the film; moving at an excellent pace, the screenplay keeps your attention the whole time.
This movie is certainly not for everyone–especially those who are already predisposed to disliking Wes Anderson’s style. However, I urge you to try it out. Even the curmudgeon couple sitting next to me laughed along with the movie. The slapstick comedy with an edgy twist to it, will delight and endear the audiences out in the dark. Before you know it, you’ll be laughing at the hijinks and your mouth will water at the very sight of the decadent pastries that are displayed for you. But, don’t forget that you’re actually witnessing a ghastly tale unfold before your eyes. There are many allegorical references and visuals throughout the movie that make it a dynamic cinema experience.