Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

I have been the biggest fan of Wes Anderson since high school when I laid eyes on “Bottle Rocket.” “Bottle Rocket” was a film that not only began the career of Wes Anderson as a director, but it gave birth to Luke and Owen Wilson (although Owen Wilson went by Owen C. Wilson in those days and the Luke and Owen’s older brother Andrew was in the film also.). I immediately tracked down “The Royal Tenenbaums” soon after then “Rushmore” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and anything else I could get my hands on. I plotted each new movie year so that I would not miss any new film by the blissful director. I have seen every single Wes Anderson film to date, and I have enjoyed everything he has touched thus far. Yes, his sense of humor is dry and not upbeat like many comedy fans look for. Yes, he over-uses themes, ideas, and even camera angles from film to film. But there is no doubt that he delights me every time I visit his films.

I think “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a huge stride forward in terms of Anderson’s career and filmography. Once again, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is an all-out Wes Anderson film and if you are not an established fan of his already, I’ll be curious to see how this works for you. I have already read a few reviews which stated that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won’t win over any new fans, but I am inclined to disagree. Like I said, this film is a cornerstone for Anderson. All of his strengths are on fine display here and heightened to a point that borders on the perfect. I could hardly find time for fault when I was having so much fun with character and story. Anderson wrote his strongest characters here, giving them delightful language to say this time around. He brought back many of the actors he has collaborated with in the past, but he gave his newcomers some big roles too, and that blend generated some career-high performances from its ensemble. I can’t imagine how “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won’t go down in cinematic history as one of Wes Anderson’s best films.

I want to spend countless hours describing the films plot in lucid detail, but I should not do that. I want everybody to play along with the game Anderson created this time out and I don’t want to spoil it too much. What I will say is that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a movie within a movie within a movie set in a fictional version of Europe. The film’s main story revolves around Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the devoted concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel during the late 1920’s. When the sudden death of his mistress Madame D. (played by Tilda Swinton in some of the most convincing old-person make-up ever seen.) arises, he goes to the reading of her will, where he meets the rest of rather disgusting family. When it is told that Madame D. has given Gustave one of the family’s most prized paintings, they won’t allow him to have it. This sets off a wild chain of events detailing the story of how Gustave comes back into contact with that prized painting. That is about as much as I want to say about the story, and I love how much Anderson gave himself to play with. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a heist movie, a romance movie, a zany comedy, a bloody mystery film and a full-blown farce and I love the way Anderson mashes all of those story threads together into something creative and coherent.

The imagination stains every single frame of this movie. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” features colorful and glanderous sets and costumes. Anderson’s usual camera angles and styles are on full display once again in this movie, but they are sharper than they ever have been. I think Anderson gets better and better in the director’s chair with every new film, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” certainly highlights that. Everything we as Anderson fans have come to love about his work is heightened to a point that is gleefully unbearable.

Have I mentioned Ralph Fiennes yet? Because if I haven’t, it is long overdue. The secret weapon of the film is the work by Ralph Fiennes. We all have known for a long time how talented Fiennes was as an actor. But for the first time in his career, he is able to show roughly hundreds of emotions at once. The way he transitions from emotion to emotion through the film is gracious in a way I have never seen from him before. There are moments that are heartfelt by Fiennes, moments of glory, moments of hilarity, moments of grandeur, moments of sorrow, moments of silliness, and moments of insanity. I was absolutely blown away by how natural Fiennes made everything feel. He seems energized by what Anderson made him do, energized by the script he had to memorize and energized by the character he got to play. We don’t see actor and character come together as perfectly as I witnessed tonight and Fiennes is reason alone to see the movie, well almost.

I have to mention Tony Revolori who plays Zero Mustafa (the young version of the character) a bell hop boy who looks up to Gustave as a mentor. Zero will go on the epic journey of the movie with Gustave and he is every big moment in the entire film. I was deeply amazed at how such a young actor could stand his ground with the A-star cast of the film and also relish every character beat he got to play with. I think Revolori is a real discovery in the film, and I hope he has a long career ahead of him.

Much like any other Anderson film, it’s hard to pinpoint who your favorite character is. From the creepy yet comic thugs played by Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody, to the tenderness of Saoirse Ronan, to the delightful charm of Edward Norton or the brief but gracious appearances by Bill Murray, Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, or Mathieu Amalric. Everybody is at the top of their game, no matter how big or small their screen presence may be. Anderson really got the most out of his actors, probably the most of any of his films to date. The result is an acting masterpiece.

So whether you’re a Wes Anderson film or not, you owe it to yourself to check out “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This is what it looks like when an artist has painted something gorgeous. This is what it looks like when actors find the right roles at the right time. This is storytelling of the purest order. This is a goofball thrill ride of massive proportions. I think it’s a truly special movie which might hit you in the heart if you let it.


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